Environment advocates yesterday frowned on the Sangguniang Panlungsod when they approved on third and final reading a measure amending the provision on green spaces in subdivisions under section 13 Article XI of Ordinance No. 0546 also known as the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) 2013-2022.
The amendment virtually reduced the 10 percent required allocation by land developers of green spaces in their properties measuring about one hectare, by incorporating such requirement in the 30 percent open space allocation in every development supposedly intended for roads and drainage facilities in subdivisions.
This is contrary to the objective set up in the Davao City Development Plan for 1996-2021, which aims to increase green spaces in the city by developing open spaces and establishing small and tree parks in every barangay.
“Retain the 10 percent 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!,” lawyer Romeo Cabarde, Jr., Director Ateneo de Davao University Public Interest and Legal Advocacy (APILA) said.
Cabarde warned city councilors to review their decision because “only when the last tree has been cut down, only when the last river has been poisoned, only when the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”
Mary Ann Fuertes, executive director Interface Development Intervention (IDIS), slammed the City Council for approving the amendment to the CLUP without proper consultation with civil society groups. IDIS made a last ditch effort during yesterday’s regular session to convince the councilors to forego the amendment.
While the councilors earlier agreed to defer the approval of the amendment on third and final reading, they had a change of heart after Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte who was on Official Business, went inside the session hall to admonish them for not following Council rules which provide that discussions will no longer be allowed on items on third and final reading.
“We are having a hard time balancing the interests of the investors and the environmentalists but this is already on third and final reading…why will they question it only now when we have been discussing this since December last year,” Duterte said.
Proponent Councilor Bernard Al-ag said the third and final reading is reserved only for final voting and no longer for discussions. He reiterated that the Council posted a notice of the committee hearings schedules contrary to claims by IDIS that there were no consultations.
Fuertes said the move to reduce the required green spaces in property developments is a short-sighted response that will have long-term repercussions on the city’s response to climate change.
She said green spaces serve as filtration and urban storm water absorption for a city which has identified flooding as one of its climate change risks. The existing storm water drainage is not enough to take in all the run-off water and adding more cement-covered subdivisions will make things worse.
“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, she said, the city’s development should consider its many watersheds and existing landscape.
Councilor Ma. Belen Acosta, the sole councilor who voted no to the amendment, said community planning is best achieved with the original 10 percent allocation for green space.
“Incorporating the green space in the 30 percent open space requirement is a step backward. There would come a time when big trees in front of the houses in these subdivisions would be cut down and the only thing we can do is impose a fine,” she said.
Councilor Victorio Advincula, chair of the committee on housing, said the move to incorporate the 10 percent green space in the 30 percent open space for land developers would benefit homeowners in the long run since developers usually add the cost of the green spaces to the cost of housing.
Advincula said the 30 percent allocated for open spaces can now be utilized for the greening program of the subdivision. Councilor Diosado Mahipus on the other hand said that investors think twice about investing in the city because of the previous CLUP requirement on the 10 percent green space.
Land developers claim that the CLUP provision on green space adds burden to them and has become expensive and confiscatory to both the developers and beneficiaries. During the committee hearings, the developers said most existing open spaces in the subdivisions have remained blighted areas, unplanted and some even used for poultries, piggeries or grazing yards for animals.
IDIS Advocacy Coordinator Chinkie Golle said the open spaces are within the responsibility of subdivision developers because under Presidential Decree 957 these open spaces are reserved exclusively for parks, playgrounds, schools, roads, places of worship, hospital, health centers and similar facilities.
“Open spaces and green spaces serve different purpose. While the former is more on recreational use, the latter serves a more significant purpose of addressing climate change,” Golle said. She said international standards for open green spaces should consider that the green space must be proportionate to the number of city inhabitants, with 9,000sqm or almost one he tare per 1,000 city inhabitants.
“The City Council failed to convene the Local Zoning Review Committee (LZRC) composed of identified local agencies and non government agencies and sectoral representatives,” she said. Golle said it is not within the power of the Council to unilaterally decide to amend the zoning ordinance because the LZRC is tasked to determine amendments or revisions to the Zoning Ordinance and then recommend to the Council the necessary legislative amendments.
She said that by approving the amendment without consulting the LZRC, the Council is guilty of usurpation of authority. The position of IDIS as well as its demand that said amendment be returned to the public is supported by at least 43 organizations including Ban Toxics, ADDU-Ecoteneo, Mindanao Land Foundations, Gabriela and other civil society organizations. (Lovely Carillo, Mindanao Daily Mirror)