Philippine Constructors Associa-tion (PCA) is asking for the creation of a special court that would exclusively resolve cases involving right of way (ROW) issues, which should be included in the proposed emergency powers of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The emergency power sought by President Duterte before Congress during his first State of the Nation Address aims to deal with the worsening land and air traffic condition in the country.
Jorge Consunji, president and chief operating officer of DM Consunji Inc., one of the country’s largest construction companies, said one of the keys to fast tracking PPP-related projects is to have a special court that would focus on resolving disputes involving right of ways (ROWs) or easements.
PPP is the public-private partnership program of the government.
“We need a special court that would resolve the right of way issues. This has been the culprit of delays in the infrastructure projects of the government. This should be included in the President’s emergency powers,” Consunji said in an interview.
ROW issues fall within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts (RTC). However, RTCs can hardly rule swiftly on right of way cases, since the RTC branches have dockets ranging from 250 cases to nearly 2, 000.
The proposal, Consunji said, is to convert some RTCs—or courts of general jurisdiction dealing with various criminal and civil cases—into full time ROW courts.
“It should also include a time frame within which the ROW issue should be resolved, e.g., within six months, and provide for the corresponding amount of just compensation,” he said.
Should the contractors and workers need security in their project sites, a ROW court can order such measure, free of charge, Consunji said, noting such proposal was already being communicated by the PCA to the government. Consuji was an active member and a former president of the association.
An estimated P15-billion worth of ROWs have not yet been awarded, according to sources at the Department of Public Works and Highways. As a result, projects have been delayed by the prolonged disputes between private landowners and the national government.
“When you say right of way that is not only on the surface or where you would build roads or elevated structures it is more complicated than that,” Consunji said.
“The right of way also means the right of way of utility companies such a Meralco to relocate their posts, and all those spaghetti underneath the surface or fiber optics owned by Globe and PLDT for example,” he said.
DM Consunji is the lead contractor for the NAIA-Expressway project which has been delayed by ROW issues. In this case, none of the telcos claimed ownership of the wires and cables underneath the project sites after having been notified.