Car park building to rise near Ifugao rice terraces
BAGUIO CITY—Banaue in Ifugao province is known for its poster-perfect rice terraces, so why is a six-story car park building being planned in the heart of the mountain town?
Municipal officials are pushing through with a P55-million car park project in Barangay Poblacion, Banaue. A group, however, has asked the Ifugao Regional Trial Court (RTC) to stop the project, saying residents had not been consulted about it and that its environmental impact had not been assessed.
The group also claimed irregularities in the granting of the government loan for the project.
Judge Esther Piscoso Flor of RTC Branch 34 granted a 72-hour temporary restraining order (TRO) on July 16 at the request of Poblacion village chief Fernando Bahatan, former Banaue Mayor Lino Madchiw, Ifugao Prosecutor Zenaida Munar-Niwane, lawyer Kendall Pung-ao and Dr. Grasibel Rufino. But she denied Bahatan’s petition for a 20-day TRO on July 21.
Leave of absence
Flor took a leave of absence on July 21 and had not acted on the petitioners’ motion for reconsideration. The case has been transferred to RTC Branch 14 in Lagawe, the capital town of Ifugao.
Banaue Mayor Jerry Dalipog said the construction of the building could encourage tourists to stay longer in his town.
“We estimate that about 25 percent of tourists who visit Banaue bring their own cars, but drive away immediately because they have no secure place to park when they hike to the terraces,” he said.
Since 2013, about 70,000 tourists have visited Banaue, but many motorists park along the town’s narrow two-lane roads, Dalipog said. Only Banaue Hotel and Halfway Lodge have parking spaces, he said.
The mayor said the construction of the parking building had proceeded after the first TRO lapsed on July 19.
In their complaint against Dalipog and the municipal council led by Vice Mayor Joel Bungallon, Bahatan and his group cited alleged irregularities in the grant of the loan from Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
They claimed that Dalipog executed the loan on Dec. 10, 2014, while Ordinance No. 16, which authorizes the mayor to borrow money from DBP, was still being reviewed by the provincial board.
The Banaue council approved the ordinance on Sept. 11, 2014. The provincial board endorsed the law on Jan. 27, or more than a month after the loan was made.
“I do not know what irregularities the protesters are talking about. We have strictly followed the process required by law,” Dalipog said in a telephone interview. He said he took out the loan to supplement government allocations because Banaue’s internal revenue allotment was insufficient.
On May 15, in an attempt to stop the project, Bahatan asked the DBP branch in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya province, to withhold the release of the loan. But the bank manager, Loreto Marites Ilagan, assured him that the municipal government had complied with all requirements.
The complainants also claimed that the people were not consulted about the project, and that the proponents had skirted potential environmental hazards that may affect them. Dalipog said the project was the result of consultations with town officials and residents in 2013. He said the project was included in the town’s annual investment plan for 2014. –Kimberlie Quitasol