Properties affected by road widening

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In many places we go nowadays, whether they be within Baguio City or elsewhere else in the country, they seem to be affected by the government’s road-widening projects.

Just here in our mountain city, we have this road-widening project between the Baguio General Hospital Compound and Camp 8 barangays which has been ongoing on for such a long time now that it annoys drivers and other commuters passing that stretch of Kennon Road.

To add to the anxiety of some long-time residents of BGH Compound is the fear that the road-widening project there would literally slice off large portions off their houses facing the highway.

And to make matters worse for them is that they would not be properly compensated for their losses or for the value of the sliced off portions of their houses because most of them were not supposed to have built their residential structures there in the first place.

The reason is because while some of them were allowed to build houses there because they were employed at the BGH and/or the Department of Health many years ago and the government couldn’t erect adequate housing facilities for them, others weren’t, but built structures there just the same.

And if my memory serves me right, I don’t think that their houses could be protected under the provisions of Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Law which states that only structures built before the effectivity of this Act may be exempted from demolition.

However, going back to the topic of road-widening, if the lands to be affected are privately-owned, they would fall under the property law specifically the “law of eminent domain” wherein the sovereign state has the power or right to seize or take a private property for public use without the owner’s consent but upon thepayment of just compensation.

The question now is… how would just compensation be computed and how much should the government pay the private land owner?

Just compensation is the fair value of the property as between one who receives, and one who desires to sell, fixed at the time of the actual taking by the government. This rule holds true when the property is taken before the filing of an expropriation suit, and even if it is the property owner who brings the action for compensation. The nature and character of the land at the time of its taking is the principal criteria for determining how much just compensation should be given to the landowner. In determining just compensation, all the facts as to the condition of the property and its surroundings, its improvements and capabilities should be considered.

Also to be considered in road-widening projects are the existing road right-of-way of national roads and the prohibited uses within them.

As such, it is unlawful forany person to takeany portion of a road right-of-way, to convert any part of any public highway,bridge, road or trail for his own private use or to obstruct the same in any manner.

It is also unlawful to erect all kinds of temporary and permanent structures such as buildings, houses, shanties, stores, shops, stalls, sheds, canopies, billboards, signboards, advertisements, fences, walls, railings, basketball courts, barangay halls, garbage receptacles and the like on road right-of-ways.

It is also not allowed to put up posts and towers of electric cooperatives and major electric power distributors, distribution lines, posts for cables of telephones and mobile service providers; to set up driveways and ramps occupying or protruding to the sidewalk; to plant trees and shrubs; to put plant boxes, permanent or temporary road humps; to dump and store construction materials such as sand, gravel, cement, lumberand steel bars, earth spoils, waste materials, debris, embankments, heaps, and the like; to leave vehicles and equipment, including junked items that are parked, occupying or protruding to the sidewalk or shoulder; to vend; to repair vehicles; and to establish businesses like barbecue stands or eateries within the sidewalk and other parts of the road right-of-way.

Also disallowed are the disposal of household/commercial/industrial wastewater and sewage into the sidewalk, curb and gutter, and roadway; the raising of animals or allowing them to roam within the road right-of-way; as well as the washing and drying of clothes, crops, and similar items.

As a result, should clearing operations be done for road widening; or should improvements and/or rehabilitation be conducted there, no compensation shall be paid and allowed on the removal of these illegal obstructions.

So, before any of us plan or attempt to build anything on or beside our roads, whether it be temporary or permanent in nature, we must consider the points raised in our column this week to guide our future actions.

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