Sunday, October 09, 2005

NR1007:Bulacan residents light a thousand candles against corruption, demand the scrapping of the Northrail Project

From the Office of Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran
News Release
October 7, 2005

Bulacan residents light a thousand candles against corruption, demand the scrapping of the Northrail Project

Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran was joined fellow Anakpawis solon Rafael Mariano and by the lawmakers of Bayan Muna Reps. Teddy Casino, Satur Ocampo and Joel Virador and Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza as well as representatives of Bulacan in a solidarity action this evening against the demolition operations in the said region connected to the controversial Northrail project. The activity, dubbed “Light a thousand candles against corruption, Stop the Northrail project, stop demolitions!” was spearheaded by the Stop Northrail Project Coalition comprised urban poor groups such as the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), Pagkakaisa ng mga Maralita sa Riles (PAMARIL), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Bulacan, the Bulacan Inter-faith Dialogue, Samahan ng mga Residente at Negosyante sa Riles – Meycauayan, and Anakpawis National Political Party.

After an ecumenical, interfaith mass and a short public forum, the lawmakers and local community leaders lit candles with the rest of the residents who were lined up all along McArthur Highway. The activity was held in the Old PNR Station, Mc Arthur Highway, Calvario, Meycauayan, Bulacan. Some 2,000 candles along with gas lamps and torches were lit by the residents and their supporters. Minority Floor leader Francis Escudero has also expressed support for the said action.

The Northrail project will affect 12,878 families from the Municipalities of Meycauayan (3,341), Marilao (1,911), Bocaue (2,086) Balagtas (1,141) and the City of Malolos (2,696), all located in the province of Bulacan. Pres. Arroyo has issued Administrative Order No. 111 on November 8, 2004 designating the NHA to take charge of the demolitions and the forced relocation of affected residents. Vice-president and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chair Noli de Castro has laid down October 30 as the deadline for the completion of the demolition operations.

Malacanang through its spokesman Ignacio Bunye has announced that information regarding the project is classified and all officials involved in the project are covered by Executive Order 464 which restricts government officials from revealing information without the clearance of Malacanang.

“This infamous project has wrought massive destruction and devastation in the lives of thousands of Filipinos in Central. The relocation program has already been exposed as chaotic, inferior and riddled with anomalies. The core of our opposition to the project however lies in the fact that it was approved between the Macapagal-Arroyo and Chinese governments without going through the required legal process of consultations and public bidding. The contents of the contract did not go pubic scrutiny, but independent efforts of certain quarters to go through with a fine-tooth comb as revealed how anomalous and inimical to public and national interest it is,” he said.

“Malacanang cannot classify this project as top secret because it concerns thousands of people and the nation’s economic and political authority. The fact that Malacanang approved it without prior consultations neither with the Senate nor the House of Representatives constitutes grave abuse of authority on the part of the already corrupt and illegitimate presidency of Macapagal-Arroyo,” he said. “The officials involved in the Northrail Project should be compelled to testify and give their knowledge on the said project in senate hearings at the Senate.”

Beltran and the other progressive lawmakers have already filed three house resolutions calling for investigations into the project.For its part, the UP Law Center has also declared the project illegal and disadvantageous to the Philippines. In a 28-page opinion on the legal, economic, financial and technical aspects of the contract, the UP Law Center recommended the projects annulment and that criminal, criminal and civil charges be filed against all persons who signed the contract.

Among the reasons cited by the center in arriving at its conclusions are the following:

1.The absence of public bidding even if the exemptions on competitive bidding contained under Republic Act 9184 were absent.

2. The contract cannot be viewed as a treaty or executive agreement whether seen from the perspective of international or Philippine law.

3.The contract failed to comply with the Government Auditing Code and the Administrative Code of 1987, because the government’s counterpart funds is not supported by a certification on the availability of funds.

In the meantime, the veteran labor leader turned lawmaker demanded the immediate sacking of National Housing Authority (NHA) general manager Federico Laxa because of the countless complaints of the affected residents. He said that Laxa has been mostly vague and uncooperative in the congressional investigations delving into the said complaints of the residents arising from the demolition and relocation residents.

Beltran said that the following charges are only some of those being leveled by the residents against Laxa:

1. Corruption. Laxa has allegedly jacked the prices of land in the relocation sites, such as the one in Marilao. Laxa has allegedly purchased the land at P450/sq,. but reported the sale to NHA as P650/ sqm. He and his partners allegedly earn P200.00 per metric square of land, which totals to P20,000.00 per lot (P200 x100,000 sqm).

Laxa is also reportedly pushing lot ‘beneficiaries’ to buy lots at the relocation site at P100,000 each. In Lambakin, Marilia, from the former 40sq, the lot sizes have been reduced to 32 sqm, and corner lots to 28 sqm. The smallest lots are pegged at 22sqm. This means that more lots can be put up, nevermind the smize not fit for human habitation.

2. Violation of the terms of reference of the NHA

In Marilao alone, the over-all number of families affected by the project is 1,911. Of this number, 1,200 families expressed the willingness to be relocated to Loma de Gato, and 73% of those surveyed by the municipal office also said that the same.The NHA, however, ignored this and demanded that the people be relocated to Lambakin.

“These are only some of the charges against Laxa and the NHA, but the national government continues to turn a deaf ear to the complaints of the residents. The relocation site in Barangay Bayugo Meycauayan which was also picked out by the NHA and the Local Inter-agency Committee or LIAC against the wishes of the residents that they be relocated instead to Brgy. Libtong. The Bayugo area is also unfit for human habitation as it was formerly a fishpond and cemetery. The area is always flooded and continues to sink. #


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