Davao Council reduces green space requirement

January 27th, 2016 by

DAVAO CITY — Developers of horizontal housing projects here will no longer be required to set aside 10% of the total land area, with a minimum of one hectare, as “green space”, following the city council’s approval of an amendment to the local law.

 Majority of the councilors voted last Tuesday in favor of the amendment to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) 2013-2022, which incorporates the 10% green space into the 30% open space intended for common facilities as well as roads and drainage facilities.

The CLUP, in line with the Davao City Development Plan for 1996-2021, supposedly aims to increase green spaces in the city by developing more open spaces and establishing small and tree parks in every barangay.

Councilor Victorio U. Advincula, chair of the committee on housing, said the amendment would benefit buyers in terms of lower property rates, since developers usually add the cost of the green space to the unit price.Mr. Advincula said the 30% allocation for open spaces would be enough for the greening program of the subdivision.

Councilor Diosado A. Mahipus added that the 10% green space requirement discouraged some property investors from venturing into the city.

On the other hand, Councilor Ma. Belen S. Acosta, the sole councilor who voted no to the amendment, said the 10% green space is crucial to community development.

“Incorporating the green space in the 30% open space requirement is a step backward. There will come a time when big trees in front of the houses in these subdivisions will be cut down, and the only thing we can do is impose a fine,” Ms. Acosta said.

Several environmental advocates representing at least 43 different organizations who attended the Tuesday’s session slammed the amendment.

“Retain the 10% green spaces in the land use plan! No to scheming subdivision development! Respect our common home! Your business interest will kill us all and Mother Earth!” said an impassioned Romeo T. Cabarde, Jr., director of the Ateneo de Davao University Public Interest and Legal Advocacy.

Mr. Cabarde called on city councilors to review their decision.

Mary Ann V. Fuertes, executive director of Interface Development Intervention (IDIS), said the move to reduce the required green space in property developments is a short-sighted response to development that will have long-term repercussions on the city’s ability to cope withclimate change.

Ms. Fuertes pointed out that green spaces serve as filtration and urban storm water absorption for a city, which has identified flooding as one of its climate change risks.

“Reducing the green space requirement will only worsen the flooding in the city,” she said, “Instead of accommodating land developers at the expense of our environment, the city’s development should consider its many watersheds and existing landscape.”

IDIS Advocacy Coordinator Chinkie P. Golle, meanwhile, said the open spaces are within the responsibility of subdivision developers under Presidential Decree 957.

“Open spaces and green spaces serve different purposes. While the former is more on recreational use, the latter serves a more significant purpose of addressing climate change,” Ms. Golle said.

She also noted that the council “failed toconvene the Local Zoning Review Committee composed of identified local agencies and nongovernment agencies and sectoral representatives,” making their vote tantamount to “usurpation of authority”.

The amendment’s proponent, Councilor Bernard E. Al-ag, explained that the proposal was already up for third and final reading, which is intended only for voting and no longer for discussions.

Notices on previous committee hearing schedules were posted, he added.

Mr. Al-ag said that during the discussions, land developers claimed that the 10% green space has become burdensome, expensive, and confiscatory for both the developers and beneficiaries, as these usually ended up as blighted areas or used for poultry, piggery, or grazing yards for animals.

Vice-Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte, chairman of the council, said the opposing groups should have aired their position during the previous hearings.

“We are having a hard time balancing the interests of the investors and the environmentalists, but this [amendment] is already on third and final reading… why will they question it only now, when we have been discussing this since December last year?” Mr. Duterte said.

Ms. Golle said they will file a case questioning the council proceedings on the amendment. (Carmencita A. Carillo, BUSINESSWORLD)