NO CLEAR RULES SP presses probe on use of public plazas

BY GLENDA SOLOGASTOA

ILOILO City – Which city government office is tasked to regulate public plazas and issue permits to whoever wants to hold activities in them?

City Administrator Hernando Galvez admitted the city government did not have guidelines on the use of public plazas.

An “applicable ordinance” on the matter, Ordinance No. 40 approved in 1972 yet, was deemed “partly modified” by Ordinance No. 14 approved in 1990, said Galvez.

But Ordinance No. 14 was also deemed to have been modified by the Local Government Code enacted in 1991, he said.

So “there is now no concrete rule in view of that repeal by subsequent legislations…there are no existing guidelines,” said Galvez.

On Monday, Acting Mayor Jose Espinosa III announced a “general rule” prohibiting ukay-ukay in public plazas.

He ordered the demolition of ukay-ukay stalls at Jaro Plaza Friday last week. His next targets were the stalls at the plaza of Mandurriao district.

Galvez cited a 2011 opinion of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) that the barangay captain may allow the closure of the public plaza but he stressed this has never been practiced in the city.

This is what is being practiced, said Galvez: the mayor issues a permit for the special use of the plaza such as for fiesta celebrations or he may first seek authority from the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) to do so.

Galvez also said that as practiced, the Association of Barangay Councils intending to use a plaza first secures permission from the city government.

“First, there is a request (to the Office of the City Mayor). Once approved, there will be coordination with concerned city government departments,” said Galvez.

The city administrator made these clarifications yesterday at the session of the SP where he was summoned together with the heads of the Special Services Unit (Zellah Gil), Task Force on Anti-squatting and Illegal Structures (Roberto Dumanil) and City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Engr. Noel Hechanova).

The SP recently passed a resolution calling for such meeting to once and for all clarify the use of public plazas.

But noting the many concerns to be discussed, city councilors deemed it wise yesterday to convene itself as a committee of the whole to conduct an investigation on the use of plazas and other public areas in the city.

Councilor Jeffrey Ganzon, the acting vice mayor, would lead the investigation. The date would be announced subsequently, he said.

“The investigation should focus not only on the issuance of permit for the use of plazas but must also including sidewalks and other public plazas,” suggested Councilor Joshua Alim.

Alim recently warned against the closure of Jaro and Mandurriao district plazas for income-generating activities.

This early stalls were again being constructed in these plazas, according to Alim, even if Mandurriao’s district fiesta was still a month away (November) while Jaro’s would be on February 2018 yet.

He reminded colleagues of the resolution they unanimously passed disallowing the closure of public plazas.

“Ang mga plaza himuon naman nila bulogasan. Plazas are beyond the commerce of man,” stressed Alim, citing the Local Government Code which prohibits the closure of public plazas except for some occasions but that the closure must not be more than three days./PN