BANAUE, Ifugao: The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has requested the Banaue municipal government to stop the construction of a P55-million seven-level parking facility.
NCCA Chairman Felipe De Leon Jr. said, in a letter addressed to municipal officials including Mayor Jerry Dalipog and Vice Mayor Joel Bungallon, that the objective of the request is to ensure the conservation and protection the rice terraces, which is considered a World Heritage Site.
Residents already opposed the construction of the facility, which began in April this year, because they believe the infrastructure will endanger their lives and property.
The project is reportedly financed by a loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), which was authorized by the Municipal Council Ordinance No. 16 dated September 11, 2014. The payment guarantee used for the loan was the town’s Internal Revenue Allotment.
Municipal records show that the project is reflected in the municipal government’s Comprehensive Development Plan.
But the NCCA said the project, including the DBP loan, was carried out without proper consultation with the stakeholders.
Petitioners seeking a court injunction, filed a case at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 34 in Banaue last month.
The petitioners, which include Barangay Poblacion Chairman Fernando Bahatan, lawyer Hendall Immoliap, Fiscal Zenaida Munar-Niwane, former mayor Lino Madchiw and Dr. Grasibel Rufino, questioned the legality of using the Municipal Development Fund as collateral for the project.
They also questioned how the municipal government entered into the loan agreement with DBP on December 10, 2014 while the Municipal Ordinance to secure the loan was passed only on January 27, 2015.
Bahatan added that the parking project cannot be constructed at the only open space in Barangay Poblacion.
Presiding Judge Ester Piscoso-Flor already issued a seventy-two-hour Temporary Restraining Order for the initial petition but the petition for an extension of the TRO has been denied. The petitioners have submitted a motion for reconsideration.
Mayor Dalipog, meanwhile, denied the allegation of the petitioners.
He said the project was studied for many years as to its safety and that the necessary permits were secured for its construction.
“In fact [Poblacion Barangay Captain] Bahatan was one of the signatories for the said project. They had the time to question it before the construction started. Why are they only doing it now when the project is already ongoing? As you can see, this is just politics,” Dalipog said.
The mayor added that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has issued an Environment Compliance Certificate, which Dalipog said is proof that the project is safe.