QC gov’t a land-grabber?
It will be Christmas Day two days from now, but the gardeners and management of the Manila Seedling Bank (MSB) on Quezon Avenue have nothing to be happy about. As a matter of fact, they fear it because if nobody stops the Quezon City government, they will be ejected from the gardens—only one week after Christmas.
And they will face the new year without their gardens and without any means of livelihood. They are, therefore, appealing to the courts and national government officials—specifically President Aquino, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, and the Supreme Court—to stop the QC government from pushing through its “unreasonable, oppressive, partial and discriminatory move to deprive them of their rights without due process.”
The Manila Seedling Bank Foundation (MSBF), which operates MSB, has already won a case in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City. The court has issued a permanent injunction enjoining the QC government from seizing the MSBF gardens. The seizure of the gardens is technically contempt of court, but City Hall has appealed the case to the Supreme Court so the RTC decision has not become final and will remain in that state until the high tribunal resolves the appeal.
City Hall is probably afraid it would lose its case in the Court, so it is taking advantage of the interregnum by occupying the gardens through brute force, so that by the time the Court hands down its decision, it would be moot and academic because the seizure would be a fait accompli.
Why is the QC government doing this? Because of greed and selfishness, and because it has been tempted by a land developer. It is turning out that some land developers are as greedy in real life as they have been portrayed in novels and movies (e.g., “The Pelican Brief”).
Sometime in the past, this developer planted into the heads of QC politicians the idea of a business center in one of the last remaining open spaces in QC—and of untold riches to them. This space is the North Triangle area composed of the Ninoy Aquino Park, the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, the Manila Seedling Bank, the Quezon Memorial Park, the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines, and the area between Ayala’s Trinoma shopping mall and Agham Road, now occupied by squatters.
This space is also the last open space in the whole of Metro Manila. It is the remaining green lung of the metropolis, its trees and plants converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. Make this into another concrete jungle and it is like cutting off both lungs of a person. That person cannot breathe. Without this green lung, Quezon City cannot breathe and will suffocate in the exhausts of the thousands of vehicles passing through its streets and the tens of thousands more that will be attracted by the business center.
Coincidentally, this is also the bedroom of Quezon City, the area being host to many housing subdivisions—e.g., Philamlife, Tierra Pura, Miranila, Project 6, the UP campus with its housing areas, and many other villages. The residents of these areas do not want a business center to be its neighbor. Because of the tremendous traffic jams that the center will cause, the residents will be marooned inside and outside their homes. They will have a hard time getting out of their homes in the morning or going home in the evening because of the traffic gridlock.
The area is bounded by North Edsa, Quezon Avenue, North Avenue, Timog Avenue, Luzon Avenue, Visayas Avenue, Mindanao Avenue, Congressional Avenue, Agham Road, East Avenue, West Avenue, Kalayaan Road, Commonwealth Avenue and the Quezon Memorial Circle.
Right now, the Quezon Memorial Circle and all the streets radiating from it are full of vehicles because of four shopping malls there—Ayala’s Trinoma, SM’s North Edsa, and The Block, and Lucio Tan’s Eton mall. There is no business center there yet. Imagine what would happen with a business center there. There would be not only the tens of thousands of vehicles of office-goers and owners of condominium units, there would also be the tens of thousands more vehicles of people who would go there to do business, shop at the shopping malls and eat in the many eating places.
As of now, Ayala has already converted UP’s Commonwealth Avenue campus into call centers and a center for restaurants, and the Katipunan Avenue campus into still another eating place.
The land developer earlier mentioned also tried to take over the Veterans’ hospital compound, the Ninoy Aquino Park, and the Children’s hospital compound but it was opposed by citizens’ groups. So it and the city government turned their attention to MSB which they thought would be a pushover. But MSBF, its tenant gardeners and plain citizens who go there to buy plants, flowers, seeds and seedlings or just to relax, see green in an open space and breathe fresh air resisted the move. They filed charges against the QC officials and they seemed to be winning until this latest desperate move of City Hall to take over the MSBF compound.
First, City Hall re-zoned the MSB into a commercial zone so that it can no longer be used for gardening. It is also in preparation for the planned business center. It accepted payments for the renewal of business permits but did not issue any permits.
In 2012, MSBF filed a petition with the QC RTC for the issuance of a permanent injunction which the court granted. Not only that, it also ordered the QC government to issue a locational clearance and a business permit to MSBF. This is the case that City Hall appealed to the Supreme Court and which is still pending there.
In the next column, the legal aspects of this “land-grabbing.”
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