CIAC to uproot informal settlers in aviation complex

The CIAC Committee on Informal Settlers (CIS) will begin the process of clearing informal settlers occupying lands within the Clark Civil Aviation Complex starting on October 24.

The area occupied―called Group 4―is located along the north side of Clark airport’s existing passenger terminal and alongside the Mabalacat road and the old Ammo Dump. The GMR-Megawide will build the access road network for Clark airport’s New Passenger Terminal Building Project in this area.

The CIS created by CIAC in August 2016 is composed of the Aviation Security Department, Emergency Services Department, Airport Operations and Management Group, Community Relations Department, Safety and Environmental Management Office, and the Corporate Communications Office, along with representatives from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, Philippine National Police Aviation Security Command, and GMR-Megawide.

The CIAC-CIS will also seek the assistance of the local government unit of Mabalacat City, especially of its social welfare desk, and of the Clark Development Corp. (CDC) in augmenting CIAC’s security personnel.

Prior to this, numerous dialogues were conducted since 2009 with these settlers in the hope of amicable settlements but to no avail. Several notices of eviction were also served to heads of families in the occupied areas.

Top CIAC management reiterated that the land occupied (approximately 12 has.) is part of the Clark Freeport Zone and not an agricultural land and the settlers present there are not farmers.

The CIAC management also said that this time, these settlers may have to relocate elsewhere as they have been unlawfully occupying and even profiting from their crops, livestock and fruit-bearing trees using government-owned lands for several years now.

Moreover, the continued increase of activities in these areas pose serious hazard to airport operations as farm produce attract birds and the likelihood of bird strikes also increase especially so that Clark airport is now registering 440 flights per week.

The CIAC management also gave clear instructions to the CIS and to all those involved in the process to exercise maximum tolerance and to ensure the orderly manner of clearing operations.

The CIAC-CIS created a policy approved by the CIAC Board for the grant of financial assistance to the affected informal settlers in reference to a previous policy implemented by CIAC in 2009 when it cleared informal settlers in the area of IE-5 or where the Clark Global City stands now (previously GGLC).

In 2009, some of these settlers received financial assistance from CIAC after a thorough evaluation by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) of the produce (fruits and crops) in the said areas. They were also made to sign a quit claim which states that they are to vacate the premises and, together with their families, are prohibited to plant trees and crops within the entire Clark Freeport Zone.

In 2017, the affected informal settlers, represented by their association CABCOM, sought the assistance of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and conducted a series of dialogues with CIAC and BCDA to discuss, among others, the valuation of compensable trees, a separate financial assistance on the land occupied by informal settlers, and CIAC’s standing policy on prohibiting the entry of farm equipment and machineries on the affected areas, and CIAC’s offer of financial assistance.

On November 7, 2017, an article was published in the Manila Bulletin citing the audit observations of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the 2016 Annual Financial Report of CIAC, particularly, the “lapses in security and absence of policies” in the management of illegal settlers, and COA’s recommendation that CIAC must take action against the security agency tasked to secure the Clark Civil Aviation Complex (CCAC) for the unabated entry of illegal settlers.

Clearing process started in November 2017 with CIAC’s payment of financial assistance based on a Board-approved policy. While the process was ongoing, however, there arose an issue of whether these settlers are qualified to be recipients of financial assistance in spite of being actual relatives of informal settlers who previously benefited from CIAC’s financial assistance (clearing of IE-5) and who signed the quit claim in 2009.

CIAC then sought the opinion of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) on the matter. On September 7, 2018, the OGCC opined that affected informal settlers are qualified to receive their respective financial assistance despite their relatives having signed quit claim in 2009.

However, the OGCC also opined that the Board-approved policy on the determination of financial assistance based on the number of trees and crops planted as evaluated by the DA and DENR has no basis in law and, thus, applied the provisions under the Urban Development and Housing Act Law for the determination of financial assistance, emphasizing that there is no law covering the payment of financial assistance to informal settlers occupying lands owned by government.

The OGCC also said government offices, facilities and other installations, whether owned by the National Government, its agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned and controlled corporations, are expressly excluded from the coverage of UDHA Law.

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