BY ROGER M. BALANZA
A foreign investor has proposed to the Davao City government a reclamation project covering foreshore areas that run from the Sta. Ana Wharf in the Sta. Ana business district to Times Beach in Matina Aplaya.
The multi-billion peso project – that could involve hundreds of hectares of reclaimed foreshore area — is among three big-ticket proposals that would convert Davao City’s beachfronts into a veritable goldmine of commercial establishments standing on premium lands recovered from sea.
With spaces for buildings becoming scarce in the downtown business districts, the reclamation project could provide more elbow rooms for new business.
City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he has tasked Davao City Third District Rep. Isidro Ungab to discuss the project with President Benigno Aquino. Ungab has the ears of the President, said Duterte. Ungab is the chair of the powerful House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.
Davao City Investment and Promotion Center (DCIPC) officer Ivan Cortez said the proposal would be studied along with two other similar projects that zeroed in on the 9-hectare portion of the 123-hectare coastal village of Isla Verde, where a massive fire gutted down more than 2,000 houses early this year.
As City Hall grappled with the tragedy of relocating the displaced homeless urban poor fire victims or assist them in rebuilding their homes in the burned area, a Malaysian investor offered to develop Isla Verde into a commercial area with housing amenities for the fire victims.
Ready with millions
Another investor had offered a similar proposal on Isla Verde, said Cortez in a media forum.
Cortez did not, however, identify the investors.
But in an earlier edition of his weekly television program Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa, Mayor Duterte revealed a Malaysian investor that he also did not identify wanted to develop Isla Verde into a commercial venture.
The three investors are willing to pour billions of pesos into the project, Cortez said in the Kapehan sa Dabaw media forum.
The Sta. Ana – Times Beach reclamation project if pushed through could be implemented under the government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program where a local government enters into partnership with an investor who finances a development project without cost to the local government.
In a reclamation project, the local government gets a share from recovered lands or from proceeds if the lands are sold.
Duterte also earlier said any development project in the 123-hectare Isla Verde needs presidential approval, the area having been declared a habitation area in a proclamation issued by former President Joseph Estrada.
He said Isla Verde must first be reclassified as a commercial area before investors could come in.
In subsequent interviews, Duterte said he had tasked Third District Rep. Isidro Ungab to carry a letter to President Benigno Aquino about the local government’s plan to reclassify Isla Verde into a commercial area.
The land is for the poor
Duterte raising to Malacanang the issue of the reclamation project and conversion of Isla Verde into a commercial area, is a reversial of an earlier position.
Duterte earlier said he is taking the side of the homeless against an offer by a Malaysian investor to develop the coastal village razed to the ground by the massive fire in April.
Duterte has ordered victims of the fire that displaced more than 2,000 families to build their new homes on the spot where their houses stood before the fire that swept through three coastal barangays in Quezon Boulevard.
This despite the proposal of a Malaysian investor which proposed to reclaim the area for a P3 billion property development project.
In the project, the Malaysian investor would develop the property abutting the 50-hectare Chinatown into a commercial area.
This would have been the second time that Duterte junked a proposal to convert a premium city government property into a veritable goldmine by selling to investors.
In the early 90s, Duterte also turned away a billion-peso offer by a big name Manila property developer to buy the 8-hectare Tomas Monteverde Sports Center (aka PTA Stadium).
The prime property at the heart of downtown is now the P500 million People’s Park, a public park that has become one of the city’s major tourist attractions.
Other than prioritizing the area for the homeless urban poor victims, Duterte’s hands are also tied by two presidential proclamations that frowned on selling the property to investors.
Presidential Proclamation 85 of former President Estrada and Proclamation 2114 of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, declared the area as human settlement and parks and playground area.
Duterte then said the proclamations needed to be amended if the area is to be utilized for other purposes.
The city government has approved P60 million for land development and rehabilitation and assistance to the victims of the worst fire to hit the city in decades.