BAGUIO CITY – A giant bus company are evicting at least 79 houses composed of some 482 households occupying a former Philippine railway property in Barangay Marcoville.
In a demand letter dated March 18, 2019, the Victory Liner, Inc., through their legal counsel Atty. Edwin U. Marquez, demanded the United Marcoville Barangay Residents Association to vacate the premises within 15 days from receipt of the document. “Otherwise, we shall be constrained to take the necessary legal action to protect our client’s best interest,” the demand letter furthered.
The residents being evicted are the descendants of the workers of the defunct Benguet Auto Line Buses which later became the Philippine National Railway (PNR). The workers stayed in their housing area even after the buses ceased to operate within the 4,770 square meter coverage of Special Patent No. 3544 for more than five decades now.
The demand letter of Marquez states that the bus company have entered into a contract of lease with the PNR over a parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate Title No. 018-2016000412 effective January 1, 2019.
“As per verification of our client, you have your structure built over the said parcel of land by way of tolerance. Considering the imperative need of our client to use the property as a yard site, this formal demand and/or notice is hereby served upon you,” Marquez stated in his demand letter.
Florence Ostil, president of the association, sought the help of the city government through Mayor Mauricio Domogan to intercede on the demand to vacate the premises. She explained that they had been negotiating with the PNR for the purchase of the land at an affordable price in the form of socialized housing project but to no avail.
Domogan explained that before the alleged contract of lease between the bus company and the PNR had been executed, Victory Liner is very much aware that members of United Marcoville Barangay Residents Association are already occupying said area that they are being asked to vacate.
“They have been there occupying the said area for a long, long period of time, and in fact, even our office had been helping them negotiate with PNR for the purchase of the land at an affordable price as subsidized housing project,” Domogan stated in his letter.
Domogan invoked Section 8 Article 4 of Republic Act 7279, otherwise known as the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) of 1992, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2001 issued Executive Order 48 declaring properties of PNR which had not been used for the purpose for which they have been reserved or set aside for the past ten (10) years from the effectivity of the UDHA and identified as suitable be declared as socialized housing sites.
The mayor cited Section 1 of the said EO which states, “In view of the urgency and need by thousands of informal settlers to acquire land ownership and shelter security, the non-core properties of PNR as are found viable for the purpose, are hereby declared as site for socialized housing, subject to private rights, for disposition to their actual bonafide occupants.”
The non-core properties of the PNR are those outside the boundaries of the railroad tracks and non-utilized for railroad purposes, Domogan explained.
He said, if necessary, a final survey shall be conducted to clearly determine the areas and parcels covered by Arroyo’s EO.
Domogan said that after the issuance of said EO, there had been conferences done to have the areas occupied by members of the association be acquired by them as socialized housing project. There were even representatives of different government line agencies involved in socialized housing who attended some of the conferences.
He requested the bus company to recall or discontinue their demand to vacate since the occupants are members of the urban poor who have been there since time immemorial and therefore protected not only by RA 7279 but also of EO 48 Series of 2001.
In 2016, PNR representatives conducted a dialogue with the occupants in their Marcoville property. The Bureau of Internal Revenue set as zonal value for the PNR Marcoville lots was at P11,500 per square meter, the standard value for commercial zones along main roads and P8,750 for lots in other roads.
However, the occupants have asked the PNR for a socialized housing price thus no agreement was finalized.
Aside from the Marcoville property, PNR also has properties in San Roque and San Luis barangays in Baguio City as well as in Tadiangan and Nangalisan villages of Tuba, Benguet. These properties were earlier set as part of the Aringay, La Union to Baguio railway but were deferred by the national government with the development of national roads./Jessa Mardy Polonio-Samidan