Buhisan River found ‘titled’

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Friday, August 9, 2013

CAN a river and its three-meter easement be titled?

Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak raised this question when he found a topographical map of Barangay Buhisan and saw that the Buhisan River and its periphery are covered by titles under the name of private parties.

“Why are these titled? This will hamper the projects and programs of the City Government because this will take a long process,” he told reporters on Thursday.


As of Thursday, members of his staff were still reviewing the documents that identify the properties found on the map and their owners.

At least 80 private owners have been identified to have titles of the river and its periphery.

The City aims to relocate households on danger zones, including those living along the Buhisan Dam spillway.

Tumulak said that when work resumes on Monday, he will go to the Bureau of Lands and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to ask why private entities have titles for the area.

The area is considered inalienable, which cannot be titled under the name of private parties.

In an interview, DENR-Central Visayas Information Officer Eddie Llamedo said their agency can initiate a probe on claims of people to own titled lands along river systems.

Under Commonwealth Act 141, rivers cannot be alienated or titled because they are considered a public land.


“What we can do now is to initiate an investigation with our legal division and the City Government of Cebu to find out how many titles were issued and how these were issued. With the output of the probe, we will file the appropriate reversion case or complaint at a regular court with the Office of the Solicitor General,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

He said the role of DENR is to recommend the cancellation or revocation of titles that are found to be defective.

Llamedo said that the DENR has a program on “Anti-Fake Titles,” where most of the titles issued in the early 70’s are being checked.

Tumulak’s executive assistant, lawyer Guiller Ceniza, said the matter may reach the Solicitor General if the City decides to seek the cancellation of the titles.


But Tumulak said he will first call for a consultation with the owners and other stakeholders before going to court.

The newly elected city councilor was the first to respond to the spillover of Buhisan Dam. He showed reporters a video showing the spill.

While Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) downplayed the incident, Tumulak said it still poses a risk because it will increase the water level of the Buhisan River and endanger the lives of families living near the riverbank. There are over 2,000 houses that stand on the spillway.

Barangay Buhisan identified about 300 households that are on danger zones in six sitios, but Tumulak believes the number can reach 700.


Recently, three barangays experienced minor landslides.

Landslides were reported in Barangays Binaliw, Toong and Pamutan, which had to be cleared by the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CCDRRMO).

CCDRRMO operations officer Alvin Santillana said half of the road in an area in Pamutan was not passable because of the landslide.

The office was able to clear it yesterday afternoon.

In Toong, all 14 trees recommended to be removed have been cut. The trees posed risk to residents following a landslide at the back of Toong Elementary School last Monday.

The Department of Engineering and Public Works and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR will have to check the area to determine if it is already safe for the pupils to go back to their respective classrooms.

Last Monday, the students were transferred to other classrooms as precaution.

Toong and Pamutan are the peripheral barangays of Buhisan, along with Sapangdaku and Quiot.


During Tumulak’s consultation with Buhisan residents the past few days, he suggested that they identify higher grounds in the barangay that they can evacuate to when the water level of the Buhisan River rises during heavy rains, or when the Buhisan Dam spills over again.

He said the evacuation centers identified by the barangay, the sports complex and the Buhisan Elementary School, are both along the riverbank.


The Mandaue City Government is also working to relocate families affected by landslides.

Last Wednesday night, another landslide struck Barangay Casuntingan, damaging two houses and burying a pig pen.

The City Social Welfare Services Office (CSWS) will set up an evacuation center at the basketball court of Sitio Lub-ang for the seven families affected by the landslides.

Mayor Jonas Cortes said the City will find a way to accommodate the families in the 6.5-hectare relocation site in Barangay Paknaan.

The relocation site is reserved for families living along waterways.


Some 1,200 families have been identified as beneficiaries of the relocation site.

Part of a hill collapsed last Saturday night, damaging four houses occupied by five families.

The latest landslide occurred past 9 p.m. Wednesday. Casuntingan barangay captain Oscar del Castillo said two pigs were buried but were rescued. No one was reported injured.

Del Castillo said the affected families were advised to leave the area and stay temporarily with their relatives away from the hill.

An evacuation center will also be set up today, Friday.

Families will also be lent tents, but these could not be sent yesterday because they were used by the City in one of the activities of the City’s 44th Charter Day celebration.

Del Castillo said about 70 families live in Sitio Lub-ang, which is situated between a hill and the Butuanon River.

He said he has repeatedly advised the residents to relocate to safer ground.

Aside from landslides, the residents have to stay alert when the Butuanon River overflows and causes flooding, he said. (JGA/BAP/RSB/Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 09, 2013.

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