Bloody demolition: For socialized housing or business?

Voltaire Tupaz

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Parañaque earmarks over half of city property to be demolished for commercial use. Only a small portion is left for informal settlers' new homes

MANILA, Philippines – Despite Monday’s bloody demolition, the Parañaque government remains keen on bringing down the Silverio compound to pave the way for the development of the area.

It says this is to comply with a city ordinance issued in 2003 to build a socialized housing project for informal settlers in the sprawling 9.7-hectare property.

The plan: turn Silverio shanties into “Silver Homes,” which will consist of 32 medium-rise residential buildings on the property. More demolitions are expected to make way for this.

Parañaque Mayor Florencio Bernabe said it’s affordable: each unit will cost P550,000, with a monthly amortization of P2,800 to P3,000 payable in 25 to 30 years. The project will have 32 buildings, with a total of 1,920 residential units. Each building will house 60 families. It will also include a barangay hall, a health center, a daycare facility and a play area.

But here’s the catch: while the city aims to make good on its promise to build these houses, the master plan for the project shows it will only allocate a small portion of the property for these.

Too, not everyone will benefit from the development; only around 1,900 households out of the 28,000 currently living in the compound will be offered low-cost units.

The bulk of the area – 6 hectares – will be used for a mixed-use commercial complex that is expected to generate more income for the city.

Talks with developers

Bernabe said this complex might include a mall and a condominium. 

Since the city does not have the resources to build the project, Bernabe explained that it initially eyed SM Development Corp (SMDC), the real estate firm of mall tycoon Henry Sy, to develop the property.

“The housing (Local Housing Development Office or LHDO) wanted SMDC, but it was just a suggestion,” Bernabe clarified.

He said that the city also considered forging the agreement with other developers like Ayala Land Inc. and Robinsons Land Corp.

But Bernabe said the city never signed an agreement with any of them.

What prospered was a partnership with the state-run National Housing Authority (NHA), which will provide the funds for the housing component of the project and bid it out among developers.

SMDC came in the picture again after the NHA required Parañaque to identify a prospective partner for the project.

Engineer Oscar Fernandez, the LHDO chief, told Rappler that his office recommended SMDC only for purposes of complying with the NHA requirement, but they still intended to bid out the project.

“This is only a recommendation. Anyway, ang lahat naman ng projects ng NHA, dadaan ‘yan sa bidding.”

Fernandez cited the expertise of SMDC in constructing medium-rise buildings as the basis for his recommendation, explaining that other developers do not have the same capacity.

SMDC denies links

SMDC has denied any involvement in the project. In a statement, it said the “information regarding SMDC is false.”

“We reiterated the fact that we do not own any part of the Silverio Compound and we’re not part of any plans to develop it,” the company stressed.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, April 25, after the annual stockholders meeting of SMDC, the property firm’s vice chairman Henry Sy Jr. said that they were surprised that they were dragged into the controversy.

“We were surprised that we were involved the controversy that happened a few days ago. We don’t own the property. We don’t have anything to do with the demolition,” he stressed.

When asked about the supposed plan of the local government to tap them for the project, Sy Jr. replied, “I think that is more of their wish list but which they haven’t even contacted me whether we want to participate or not.” 

While he considered it a compliment that his firm is top-of-mind for the property development project, he emphasized that “we haven’t signed any document or contract with the government.”  

Commercial component

The commercial component of the project, meanwhile, deviates from a city ordinance that mandated Parañaque to build low-cost housing on the entire 9.7-hectare Silverio Compound.

Issued in 2003, City Ordinance No. 03-07 (806) authorized then city mayor Joey Marquez to initiate the expropriation of the property for socialized housing.

In August 2005, Parañaque paid the owner of Silverio Compound, Magdiwang Realty Corporation, P10.2 million for the expropriation. The property was then turned over to the city by virtue of a writ of possession handed down by the Regional Trial Court Branch 196 in January 2006.

However, Bernabe said there is nothing wrong in using the property for commercial purposes. It’s classified as a “commercial zone” anyway, he said.

“The city can generate income out of its own assets as long as we fulfill our obligation of providing decent housing for the residents in Silverio,” Bernabe said. “Since the city is a corporation, it can enter into a joint-venture [to develop a mixed-use project] as mandated by the local government code,” he added.

Fernandez agreed: “When you plan, you take into consideration the commercial and socialized aspects of the land.”

For housing only

However, the LHDO chief admitted that the ordinance authorizing the expropriation of the land only mandated Parañaque to use it for socialized housing.

On Monday, April 23, demolition teams tried to bring down a portion of Silverio, triggering a clash between riot policemen and the residents. The incident ended in the death of one and injury of at least 6 others, according to police.

He did not say if and when they plan to secure a court order for the demolition of the rest of the property since the project “is still in the design stage.”

Fernandez said the transfer of informal settlers is synchronized with the stages of the construction. The first cluster of households to be affected are those living in Phase 3 of the compound.

For every round, at least 100 households will be transferred to a “staging area,” a one-hectare temporary relocation site at the corner of Kabihasnan Extension and Coastal Road. In 3 to 5 years, all recognized beneficiaries are expected to have settled in their respective new 24-square meter units

About 1,832 existing structures in the compound are expected to be taken down, depending on NHA’s timeframe. The figures correspond to the number of household beneficiaries of the socialized housing project based on a 2010 census conducted by the Urban Mission Area Development Office.

But protesting informal settlers claimed that there are 28,000 households in the compound. –

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