By Chito Chavez
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday warned contractors or unscrupulous groups not to use the agency’s road clearing of obstruction order for other purposes.
DILG Memorandum Circular 121-2019 was signed “only for purposes of removal of road obstructions and cannot be used for road widening purposes,’’ said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
Año issued the caution after receiving reports from La Union, Northern Samar, and other parts of the country that the circular was being used by contractors of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and some Local Government Units (LGUs) to remove century-old trees, demolish waiting sheds that do not obstruct sidewalks and even demolish structures in private lots without notice and just compensation.
“We wish to emphasize that the purpose of MC 121-2019, in compliance with the directive of the President, is to ‘return to public use, all public roads and sidewalks that have been appropriated for private use.’ In other words, it is for purposes of returning to the public the use of all public roads and it should never be used for road-widening purposes,” he said.
He emphasized that the directive cannot be used to justify road widening projects because that is covered by a different set of rules.
“For example, the taking by government of private property for road widening purposes requires expropriation proceedings and the payment of just compensation after due notice and hearing,” he said.
Año urged all local government and DPWH district engineers to advise their contractors of the purpose and coverage of MC 121-2019 and “not to interpret it in another way’’.
As the Sept. 29 deadline for clearing operations nears, Año created validation teams to ensure that local government units (LGUs) are “on the same page in implementing DILG MC No. 2019-121.”
DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said the validation teams will check on the compliance of the LGUs with the presidential directive.
“We are inching towards the 60-day deadline and, of course, we want to yield a 100 percent compliance,” said Malaya.
The validation team will be composed of: a DILG officer cross-posted from a different LGU, a representative from the local police unit; a representative from the local Bureau of Fire Protection Station; representatives from accredited civil society organizations; and a representative from the media.
All DILG regional directors were also directed to “personally meet and interface with local chief executives (LCEs) of all towns and cities within their jurisdiction” for the smooth implementation of MC 121-2019.
“As we have expressed before, we do not want to make the impression that this road-clearing operation is exclusive to the LGUs in Metro Manila, and now that the message was clearly received, we want to follow through by going down and see the progress made by these LGUs in their respective jurisdictions,” said Malaya.