by Tara Yap
Iloilo City— Some residents of Sicogon are renewing their clamor for housing benefits amid efforts to revive the island as a tourist destination.
Gideon Umadhay Jr., regional director of Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), told Manila Bulletin a local group known as Sicogon Island Farmers and Fisherfolk Association (FESIFFA) is claiming that project developer Ayala Land Inc. and private land owner Sicogon Development Corp. (SIDECO) have not built the 30-hectare relocation site for residents who will be displaced.
In February 2016 the DAR approved the conversion of 334 hectares of Sicogon from agricultural to commercial land.
Umadhay said DAR based its decision on the agreements signed by residents and the joint venture between Ayala and SIDECO.
Even before Ayala got involved in the project, SIDECO and FESIFFA were already locked in a land dispute because DAR had made some residents eligible for free farmland.
Umadhay said that by allowing the conversion, the locals in effect waived their rights as beneficiaries of farmlands.
Currently, some residents are proposing that DAR must revoke the land conversion due to breach of contract.
Ryan Ybañez, Ayala’s Sicogon project manager, said there was no breach of contract.
Ybañez explained the delay is caused by residents who kept changing design plans for the mass housing project.
Meanwhile, a dialogue will be conducted in Sicogon on June 23 for residents and Ayala to settle differences.