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Rough Cuts | Why shorelines, sidewalk squatters remain

Now we know why despite pronouncements of prohibitions of this and that activity to be undertaken in specified areas in Davao City most often than not the restrictions are ignored.

Look at the shorelines of the barangays along Quezon Blvd. and Leon Garcia st. down to Jerome in Agdao district. When the local government of Davao City implemented the World Bank-funded Regional Cities Development Project (RCDP) during the time of the late former Mayor Luis T. Santos, everybody in the city thought that would end squatting of shorelines in the city.

And why not? The RCDP developed the once squatted areas along the city’s shorelines, awarded the developed areas to the residents who were validated and qualified to be recipients of the socialized upgraded home sites.

The shoreline communities were developed into livable havens with planned roads and underground drainage.

But in almost four decades since the RCDP implementation the once clean seawalls specifically along barangay Bucana going to Sta. Ana port area can no longer be found. In its stead appear new squatter colonies that seem worst than what used to be the sight of the areas concerned prior to the RCDP inception. The eyesores though is effectively hidden from the public view by the much improved structures along the Quezon Blvd. area and the layers of houses that now occupy the RCDP sites. One will only come to discover the squatter agglomeration if he or she has the opportunity to visit the shoreline areas, or happens to be on board a sea vessel passing along the sea front.

We assume that this happened because the city government has neglected a major responsibility which is to continuously monitor the status of the project as well as ensure that no new informal settlers find the shorelines their next targets.

Meanwhile, we have also observed that this ineptitude of local government authorities are taken advantage by some scheming individuals. Using their so-called desire to earn a living as reason for their wanton disregard of existing ordinances prohibiting allocation of certain spaces they now make even the sides of public parks as sites of their businesses.

We are referring to the so-called “People’s Park” along Palma Gil St. The sidewalk along the said road is now occupied by small semi-permanent stalls selling food, bottled water, soft drinks, chicharias, and others. The stalls are totally blocking the view inside the People’s Park from its Palma Gil side.

We are certain we are not alone in our observation on that particular area. But the stall owners may not have stayed there for years already had they not have some assurances from certain influential persons that they could not just be uprooted.

As we are made aware of, Davao City’s People’s Park is one of three remaining spots with greens in the city’s downtown area. The others are Magsaysay Park and Osmena Park at the back of the city’s legislative building.

Unfortunately, all the three parks are slowly kept from the appreciation of passers-by because its perimeters along the road sides are already converted into sites of small business enterprises.

If the occupation is expressly allowed by the government then that is a different story. Unfortunately we have yet to hear official policy pronouncements from the city government that freedom of acquiring spaces for residential purpose and for allocating areas to conduct businesses are allowed in this and that areas.

Isn’t it that the city is doing everything to retain its status as one of the most livable cities in Asia? How can we possibly do that when clearly there is negligence by the local government in monitoring activities of certain sectors that on their own allocate public — and at times — even private spaces for their own gainful use.

The sprouting of informal settlements along the city’s shorelines and the occupation by stall owners of sidewalks along city roads where there are parks and other visitors’ destinations are altering the city’s enticing landscapes.

In other words, it is on this aspect that the city officials should keenly focus their attention as ignoring this present situation would encourage others to also disregard lawful orders against squatting and sidewalk occupation.

But this requires political will. Do the city leaders have it given the fact that informal settlers and illegal sidewalk occupants are voters?

Or, should we rather say that this realization is the real reason for the illegal occupants’ continuous presence in prohibited areas?

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