ORMOC CITY – Mayor Edward Codilla and his wife Violeta are no longer donating 50 hectares in Brgy. Liloan for the city’s relocation site as previously ballyhooed, but have opted for a “usufructuary arrangement” with the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation which will be developing it.
Alfredo Li, Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines CEO and company, explained the arrangement during a visit to Vice Mayor Toto Locsin Jr. and the city council here on their pre-session caucus on Thursday, July 10.
Li told the city council he believes the usufructuary arrangement was okay, as it would help protect the interventions they will be putting at the proposed relocation area.
Citing the experiences of other relocation areas, he said that there were relocation sites where the original beneficiaries sold their rights to other parties, defeating the purpose. “I believe the owner of the land would like to see that it is not abused.”
He said that under a usufruct arrangement, the beneficiaries cannot “sell” their shares because they do not own the land. However, he said that the identified beneficiaries of the Tzu Chi relocation would “have the right to stay there for the next generations to come”.
He said the usufruct arrangement will be for 50 years, and if everything goes well, is extendible by another 25 years. “Siguro, 75 years from now, we will be all gone,” Li said.
The Tzu Chi executive explained that they would be putting up 2,000 houses in the area, complete with amenities and facilities that a small community needs. There would be schools, a sports area, park and even a chapel, he said, emphasizing it would be a Catholic chapel, to dispel notions they would be recruiting the people into Buddhism.
The mayor’s wife Violeta, accompanied Li and two other Tzu Chi representatives during the meeting.
Li’s purpose in meeting with the council was to ask them for support of the interventions they will be introducing at the relocation area, saying they hoped it would become the “world standard” in such endeavors. While he said they have built many resettlement areas all over the globe
Among the support he asked from the council was the authority for the mayor to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with them, if needed; authorize the cementing of a city road leading to the relocation site; help them in asking the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Recovery and Rehabilitation (OPARR) to facilitate the release of their housing materials with the Customs, and other things related to the project.
He also asked the council to provide free water and electricity to the beneficiaries, if possible, “for the next two years.” And to waive building permits and whatever city requirements are needed to fast track site development.
Councilor Vincent Rama, on the other hand, responded to Tzu Chi saying that their project had the council’s “100 percent support.” However, he also made it clear to Tzu Chi that the SP’s function was legislative. “What we do here is we approve (requests) and if there is a missing document which would cause the delay, we do not want to be blamed for the delay.”
Rama’s potshot was aimed at city administrative Atty. Francis Pepito who has been heard to blame the LP councilors for delaying some programs, but was noted to submit incomplete documents to the council’s perusal causing the delay. “We hope it is clear to the city administrator because he is here”, Rama said.
Vice Mayor Toto Locsin Jr., reiterated that the council will support all of Tzu Chi’s endeavors, whatever they can do. He also thanked Tzu Chi for immediately responding to Ormoc’s plight, saying “you were among the first to come and help us. We appreciate and thank you. Ormocanons are very grateful to your generosity.”
To recall, it was the vice mayor and the Liberal Party councilors who met the Tzu Chi delegation when they first arrived here on November 13, five days after super-typhoon Yolanda hit the city.