THE GOVERNMENT landgrabbers in Quezon City have struck again. It is not only squatters that are grabbing properties but also, in the unkindest cut of all, the government which is mandated to protect property rights. This time the victim is the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI). The National Housing Authority has sold to the Shoemart Development Corp. (SMDC) a portion of the 58,599-square-meter property that NKTI presently occupies on East Avenue. This, without telling NKTI of the housing agency’s plan.
That was the same tactic used in the attempt to grab the 7-hectare that Manila Seedling Bank Foundation (MSBF) occupied on Quezon Avenue. The QC government sold the lot at a public auction without telling MSBF. The latter came to know about it only when City Hall’s storm troopers arrived with orders for MSBF to vacate the property as it (City Hall) had bought it during the auction. The courts have stopped City Hall from getting the property.
The root cause is this crazy idea of some QC government officials to have a business district in the North Triangle area, which would bring untold hardships to residents and businesses in and around the area. Traffic there, which is terrible now because of the presence of three giant shopping malls, would be many times more terrible because of the business center. The center would also suck most of the water supply in the area, denying residents ample water supply. And it will pollute the area with the exhausts from the thousands of vehicles that would go in and out of the business center. If the residents here know what’s good for them, they should vehemently resist and oppose this crazy idea of a business center.
If the NHA-QC government conspiracy succeeds in grabbing the NKTI and MSBF properties, it would next grab the adjoining Aquino Wildlife Park, the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, and portions of the Lung Center and the Children’s Hospital.
The reason is GREED, in capital letters. Greed of the NHA-QC government conspiracy, and greed of the property developers. Ayala Land has already developed a portion of the University of the Philippines campus along Commonwealth Avenue, and it will develop another portion at the back of the campus along Katipunan Avenue. It is now developing lots adjacent to its Trinoma shopping mall. Had City Hall succeeded in grabbing MSBF, Ayala most likely would be the lucky developer. Earlier, Robinsons made a proposal to put up a shopping mall on the MSBF property but the project was blocked by the court.
Not to be outdone, SMDC has bought that portion of the NKTI property. After it may come DMCI, Robinsons again, New San Jose Builders and other developers. Traffic in the area would be hell on earth, worse than the hell on Edsa. The Ayalas have not been able to solve the traffic gridlocks in the Ayala Center. Neither have the Ortigases solved the traffic bedlam in the Ortigas Center, nor have the Aranetas solved the traffic congestion in the Araneta Center and in the adjacent Cubao area. The same will surely happen in the proposed business center in the North Triangle.
Like the MSBF, usufructuary rights to the lot beside the Elliptical Road have been granted to the NKTI. The lot is owned by the NHA. A usufruct gives rights to the beneficiary as if it were the owner. The usufruct is good for a number of years, usually 25 to 50 years. The government cannot get it back until the usufruct expires.
MSBF, NKTI, the other nearby government hospitals, as well as the Aquino Wildlife Park are providing services to the public. But City Hall and the NHA want to deny those services to the public because of greed. The government should be expanding government hospitals, not grabbing the lands over which they have usufructuary rights and putting up more parks. Although its usufruct is still in force, NKTI has offered to pay NHA the value of the property in the form of hospital services. In spite of this agreement, NHA sold it to SMDC.
Many portions of the North Triangle area are full of illegal squatters, particularly the area opposite the Wildlife Park, around the Post Office building, and along Agham Road, adjacent to MSBF. Why don’t City Hall, NHA, and the developers clear these areas first instead of zeroing in on lots free of squatters and being used for the benefit of the public?
Also, there is a large tract of land along the newly paved Luzon Avenue that is heavily infested with squatters. Luzon Avenue is connected to Katipunan Avenue and C-5, so you can imagine the value of the lots here. The government also spent hundreds of millions of pesos to construct the flyover above Commonwealth Avenue to connect Katipunan Avenue to Luzon Avenue and to widen and pave Luzon, Katipunan and Tandang Sora avenues. Luzon, in turn connects to the Congressional Avenue which, through Mindanao Avenue, connects to North Luzon Expressway (NLEx). Luzon Avenue will eventually also connect to Republic Avenue in Bulacan. So you have an idea of the importance of these avenues and the value of the lots squatted upon along them. They should be commercial areas, not squatter havens. The government can construct medium-rise condos for the squatters in portions of this area. But it shouldn’t let the lots along these major thoroughfares be wasted on squatter shanties.
The trouble with the government, particularly the QC government, is it goes for the easy way out. Grab the squatter-free properties first because it does not want to do the difficult job of ejecting squatters who are also voters. But if it provides housing for them, why should it be difficult? Remember, City Hall is collecting extra real estate taxes from legitimate owners purportedly for squatter housing.
City Hall should start the housing project now.