The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) strongly urge Senator Leila de Lima to get her facts straight, on the heels of her call for the Senate to investigate two Build, Build, Build projects which she claims will displace over 180,000 families in Metro Manila.
As reported in a Rappler article published on November 4 entitled, “2 Build, Build, Build projects can leave thousands homeless – De Lima,” the detained Senator is seeking a Senate inquiry into the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road and the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) Projects.
The DOTr notes that what Senator de Lima appears to lump together as the NSCR Project consists of four different projects, namely: PNR Clark 1 (38-km, Tutuban-Malolos), PNR Clark 2 (51-km, Malolos-Clark), PNR Calamba (56-km, Manila-Calamba), and PNR Bicol (653-km, Manila-Matnog; Batangas).
The DOTr and DPWH stress that contrary to what the good Senator may have intentionally or unintentionally misstated, the Informal Settler Families (ISF) affected by the NSCR Projects are not confined to 38 Barangays in Manila, but are rather spread across Region III (Central Luzon), National Capital Region, Region IV-A (CALABARZON), and Region V (Bicol).
It is also stressed that contrary to the Senator’s figures, the estimated number of likely affected ISFs is 344 for PNR Clark 1; 1,173 for PNR Clark 2; 11,384 for PNR Calamba; and 1,700 for the NLEX-SLEX Connector Project. For PNR Bicol, the previous estimate of 79,531 ISFs will be greatly reduced because of the DOTr and PNR’s approach of exploring re-alignments to avoid displacement of persons, to minimize conflict with road traffic and structures, and to straighten curves to achieve faster operating speeds.
Even assuming the number of affected ISFs for PNR Bicol is not reduced (which it will), the total number of affected ISFs at 94,132 across four regions is far apart from the good Senator’s erroneous estimation, which unnecessarily misleads the public on the true scale of the projects’ impact.
It is also important to note that the DPWH and DOTr, in the acquisition of ROW for the Connector Road and the NSCR, are guided by the provisions of RA 10752, or the Right of Way Act and RA 7279, and the Urban Development Housing Act (RA 7279). Public consultation meetings had likewise been conducted by the Local Inter-Agency Committees in various affected areas.
Further, all four phases of the NSCR Project are separately financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and China – a fact conveniently missed by the good Senator.
As with other ADB and JICA financed projects, borrower countries such as the Philippines are required to ensure compliance not just with all applicable local laws and regulations on land acquisition and resettlement, but also with the ADB’s Safeguard Policy Statement and JICA’s Guidelines for Social Considerations. This means that part of project preparation and implementation is a comprehensive evaluation of the project’s potential social impact, and the implementation of measures that will ensure that affected persons are left “no worse off,” as required under ADB and JICA Social Safeguards.
It bears repeating that these projects are long overdue, and are ultimately meant to alleviate the decades-long suffering of thousands of Filipino commuters in Luzon. Moreover, these projects are poised to economically transform the regions, ferrying in commerce, and increasing incomes faster than before.
The DOTr and the DPWH, under the Duterte Administration, remain steadfast in its goal of giving a better life for all Filipinos, and will not be diverted by criticisms anchored on false and misleading data. DOTR