LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Members of the House committee on public works want concerned government agencies to establish a lump sum fund primarily aimed at settling the compensation for road-right-of-way (RROW) claimants to allow the speedy prosecution of development projects, especially in the different remote villages in the archipelago.
Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan, chairman of the House committee on public works, said RROW conflicts have been frequently identified by project implementers as the major reason for the delay of the completion of public works projects considering that there are no funds that are made available to settle such compensation to legitimate owners of lands traversed or affected by the government projects.
During the initial public hearings called by the committee to tackle such RROW concerns nationwide, Cosalan pointed out the primary reason for the snailpaced settlement of RROW conflicts is the absence of funds to compensate the private landowners of their properties or portions thereof that may be ceded to the government.
“WE agreed to amend the RROW law by placing a lump sum fund for RROW compensation but the amount has yet to be determined by the members of the committee in future hearings before we will submit our final proposal for plenary debates in the future,” Cosalan stressed.
The House committee on public works chairman revealed among the major reasons for the delay in the completion of the government’s major infrastructure projects is the absence of adequate funds that could be used to compensate private property owners to allow them to cede portions of their properties in favor of the government.
While the government is empowered to expropriate private properties for public use, the lawmaker explained property owners must be justly compensated based on the prevailing fair market values of properties, thus, it is not true that the government can simply take the properties of private individuals without paying for the same.
According to him, the common complaint of contractors is that why are they being compelled by concerned government agencies to pay for the RROW claims of private individuals when there are no funds specified in the programs of work for such item, thus, most of the time, contractors are the ones shouldering such burden which is supposed to be the primary obligation of the government.
He said the committee wants to report out the consensus of the members once the third regular session of Congress resumes so that the proposed lump sum fund will be able to catch up with the over P3 trillion national budget next year to allow the speedy prosecution of the government’s major infrastructure projects and ensure that private properties are duly compensated so as not to deprive them of their right to just compensation.
Cosalan admitted there are also private property owners who ceded portions of their properties to the government to give way for the implementation of priority development projects in the different parts of the archipelago decades ago but up to the present, they were not paid what is due by the government until they were not able to await such compensation because they already passed away.
By Dexter A. See