FATE OF LANDFILL SEALED
SAN JACINTO–In the remote possibility that Dagupan succeeds in recovering the 30-hectare land it bought in Barangay Awai here supposedly for a sanitary landfill, residents would still resist the facility’s construction but would be willing to have an evacuation center built at the site.
Mayor Robert De Vera said because of the area’s high elevation, which overlooks the Lingayen Gulf, it makes an ideal site for a permanent evacuation center in case a big flood occurs requiring the evacuation of the town’s residents, including a possible evacuation of Dagupan residents in case a tsunami hits Dagupan.
“We will oppose again as we did 12 years ago if they (Dagupan officials) will continue with their plan to make our town the dumping ground for their garbage,” said Rivera who was a barangay chairman when the Awai land was bought by Dagupan from Dagupan businessman Jose Mariano Cuña.
De Vera recalled that the 30-hectare property bought by the city from Cuña was part of the 90-hectare Fernandez Estate owned by the late Juan Fernandez that was covered by the Agrarian Reform Law.
The farmland bought by Cuna for P7 million is the area allowed to be retained by the six heirs of the late Fernandez at five hectares each.
It was sold to Cuña by Estrella Sangalang, one of the heirs of Fernandez.
“I understand that the land of the former Fernandez estate was already subdivided among the tenants, numbering some forty (at the time of the negotiations), ” De Vera said.
The mayor pointed out that their continuing opposition to the landfill is due to the fact that the land in question is a water-impounding dam, which serves as the source of water for most of the farms in San Jacinto.
Merly Julian, currently the barangay chairman of Awai also suggested that the place be converted as an evacuation center. She was a councilwoman when she first learned of the government’s plan to build a sanitary landfill in their village.
Her aunt, Fanny Viernes, was the village chief, when Mayor Benjamin Lim directed purchase of the land by the city from Cuña in 2001.
At that time, the barangay officials, including Julian, were accused by the town’s residents of receiving money after agreeing to make their village a “dumping ground” for Dagupan’s garbage.
The concerned officials, however, denied the accusation and to prove their accusers wrong, they actively led the opposition to the project. The formal opposition to Dagupan’s plan led to the failure of Mayor Lim to secure the required “social acceptability” of the project by residents.
Both Lim and Cuña are now the subject of a graft complaint filed by Daguapn resident Leo Angeles before the Ombudsman, specifically for the land deal deemed grossly disadvantageous to the city, and for failing to deliver the land title to the city.
De Vera also said that the Awai land bought by Dagupan is adjacent to a 20-hectare land of the municipality that was set for a malunggay (moringa) plantation intended to supply moringa processing plants to be built from the Priority Development Assistance Fund of Fourth District Rep. Gina de Venecia.
“We need water for the moringa plantation that was why we are reviving the water impounding dam below which was destroyed during Typhoon ‘Pepeng’ in 2009, just below the property bought by Cuña and sold to Dagupan,” De Vera said.
FINAL AND EXECUTORY
Additionally, De Vera believes it would now be difficult for Dagupan to recover the land from the tenants who won their case in 2002 decided by the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) after the decision became final and executory in 2003 sans any motion for reconsideration from the Dagupan City government led by Lim.
The case was only appealed in 2009 by Lim’s successor Mayor Al Fernandez but the DAR Regional Office denied the appeal. The final appeal was filed before the DAR Secretary where it remains pending today.