De Lima slammed for ‘misleading’ views on infra projects

MANILA — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) slammed detained Senator Leila De Lima for her “misleading” views that the two key projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Duterte administration would displace hundreds of thousands of informal settler families in Metro Manila.

“The Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Highways 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,” the DOTr and DPWH said on their joint statement on Tuesday.

This, as De Lima has asked the Senate to conduct a probe into the construction of the North Luzon-South Luzon Expressway (NLEX-SLEX) Connector Road and the North South Commuter Railway (NSCR) Project claiming this could displace over 180,000 families in Metro Manila.

Both the departments explained that the number of informal settler families affected by the NSCR Project is at 94,132 across the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, CALABARZON and Bicol.

The NSCR Project consists of the following segments: 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).

“Contrary to the Senator’s figures, the estimated number of likely affected ISFs (informal settler families) 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,” the statement read.

“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 added.

The DOTr and DPWH likewise noted that the acquisition of the right of way for the NLEX-SLEX Connector and the NSCR are in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act 10752 or the Right of Way Act and Republic Act 7279 or the Urban and Housing Development Act.

Public consultation meetings, they argued, had also been conducted by the local interagency committees in various affected areas.

Furthermore, all four phases of the NSCR Project are separately funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and China.

“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,” according to the DOTr and DPWH.

Both departments stressed that the implementation of these projects are necessary to facilitate ease of movement among commuters and boost economic growth in the region.

“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,” the DOTr and DPWH said.

De Lima has filed Senate Resolution No. 927 which urged the appropriate Senate committee to look into the impending demolition of thousands of residents’ homes in 38 communities in Manila affected by the construction of the PHP23 billion NLEX-SLEX Connector Road and the PHP171 billion NSCR Project which are scheduled to be rolled out next year.

According to the senator, these two construction projects will result in the massive demolition of houses in at least 38 barangays in Manila composed mainly of homes and small businesses. Aerol John Pateña/