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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Barangay execs blocking railway project?

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If the allegations are proven true, we urge the government agencies concerned to file charges against these politicians

Is it true that some barangay officials are deliberately defying President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s order for local governments to support the right-of-way requirements of the country’s flagship rail transportation project?

We ask this amid reports that a high-ranking politician in Metro Manila has instructed some barangay executives in his district not to cooperate with government agencies undertaking the project.

This is the Calamba-Clark railway project, officially known as the 147-kilometer-long North South Commuter Railway.

It will revolutionize rail transportation in the country, relieve Metro Manila of its horrible traffic congestion and provide commuters with comfortable, high-speed travel.

This project, which went by various names in the past, has been an on-and-off initiative, suffering several setbacks, including a major funding problem.

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The NSCR is over the humps now as President Marcos has thrown his support behind it.

In addition, he made a clear, unequivocal call on all government agencies at the local and national levels to lend the NSCR project their full cooperation, particularly on the ROW issue.

We recall clearly that, during the signing ceremony of contracts for the NSCR project, the President sounded the call for all to cooperate:

“I urge all concerned agencies to work together to address the potential challenges concerning project right-of-way – such as the need for land acquisition and the relocation of utility poles installed along the area – so that the affected properties are cleared in time for the commencement of civil works.”

The President then urged everyone involved in the project to “spare no effort to complete this monumental task for the benefit of generations to come.”

Did the high-ranking politician and the barangay officials in the areas where the NSCR line will pass through actually hear and understand what the President said?

If yes, then we are really puzzled by reports that certain local politicians are allegedly making it difficult for government teams and construction crews to gain access and do their job in areas within the jurisdiction of the officials.

While the President has ordered a “spare-no-effort” approach to kickstart the NSCR, there are local officials who trying to block it in clear defiance of the President’s directive.

Reports indicate certain barangay officials are zeroing in on government teams conducting necessary activities related to the clearing of the Philippine National Railways right-of-way.

We know very well the sides of PNR railroad tracks, particularly in Metro Manila, are occupied by large colonies of informal settlers.

Many of them have built illegal structures and are standing in the way of plans to widen the PNR ROW.

The government has to abide by steps prescribed under our laws when removing these structures.

Among these are the preparation of resettlement sites for informal settlers whose houses will be affected by clearing operations.

The good news is the Department of Transportation and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development have teamed up to help informal settlers impacted by ongoing transportation infrastructure projects.

We recall Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista’s announcement last year that the two departments “will leverage on each other’s expertise in land-use, housing and transportation planning to boost the social and economic opportunities of affected families.”

Based on this agreement, the DOTr will ensure the resettlement sites are accessible to transportation and have green spaces.

The sites are intended as well-planned estates definitely more livable than the sides of railroad tracks where the prospective beneficiaries live today.

If reports are true that certain local officials are blocking the pre-relocation activities by government teams, then they are depriving informal settlers of the opportunity to start a fresh life in a more decent environment.

We hope agencies like the Department of Interior and Local Government, as well as the cities and municipalities concerned would look into these reports.

The Ombudsman may also wish to probe allegations the high- ranking politician gave instructions to barangay officials not to allow government teams into their area.

We cannot allow the tyranny of a few to dictate the fate of the transportation system in the country.

The government must not allow the clear instruction of the President to be wantonly defied by barangay officials who want to play feudal lords in their localities.

If the allegations are proven true, we urge the government agencies concerned to file charges against these politicians. (Email: ernhil@yahoo.com)

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