DPWH legal unit cites documentation issues as cause of delayed payments

By Betheena Kae Unite

The legal division of the Department of Public Works and Highways cited that delays on payment to landowners affected by government projects are mostly due to documentation issues.

Atty. Abdul Halim Diron, chief of Right of Way Acquisition and Enforcement Division, said that they “rely so much on the records” when it comes to settlement of landowner-claimants.

“We, in the central office, we rely so much on the records of other offices so that's why it is very important that the identity of the landowner, the part affected by the project, then their ownership of the property is not disputed prior to payment,” Diron said in an interview.

“Madali kasi ‘yung magbayad pero (it’s easy to pay but) reversing an erroneous payment, mahirap ‘yun so that's why we expect our offices also to be circumspect,” Diron added.

The official furthered that when the landowner’s claim has been proven, there are still limitation on releasing the payment.

“There’s a definite period on payment but there’s a limitation on spending. If expropriated, even with the judgment of court, does not mean that we'll automatically pay because if it is not allowed on for particular public purpose, it needs appropriation,” Diron explained.

“One of the limitations is that, if it is not allotted on a specific purpose, the money could not be released to protect funds of public. We have to balance the interest of landowner against the interest of government which is to safeguard public funds and make sure that it goes to the proper person,” he added.

The lawyer also pointed out that one of the factors that result to the delay of payment of settlement is the changing price of lot.

The department, he said, conducts feasibility study in a long period of time which can cause the varying price of the property.

“During feasibility study stage, may projection na ‘yan but if you noticed the actual appraisal is conducted before the civil works. And there may be changes because the trend now is to study in the long term,” Diron said.

“So it's possible for us to make projections early in the planning season of the project. Then when during the actual acquisition, baka nagbago na yung value ng lupa. So ‘yung ibabayad mo previously noon sa landowners, hindi na siya sapat so you have to request for additional budget,” he added.

He stressed that it is “maybe one of the reasons why full payments are not made and delay on paying the balance happens.” (Betheena Kae Unite)