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  • By : Delmar O. Cariño
  • May 18, 2020


City ordinance needs further clarification

This corner believes there is a need to further discuss the provisions of City Ordinance No. 26 that requires public utilities like BENECO to first secure a written certification from the barangay or barangays where they intend to do construction before any project could begin.

We do understand the wisdom of the ordinance which the city council approved on Feb. 24, 2020. People simply got annoyed and exasperated seeing those endless diggings that impede the smooth flow of vehicular traffic or block pathways and sidewalks. Blame it on the contractors of the highways department or public utilities, there’s just no way the public can be appeased.

The city council believed the ordinance would restore order. Thus, under the measure, BENECO, PLDT, DPWH and the rest must advise or apprise the barangay of an incoming project before any shovel could start digging in.

Here’s the catch. The project owner must apply for a written certification from the barangay that the barangay has been duly informed of the project. Absent the said written certification, not a single earth at the project site must move. The application for a written certification must be accompanied with plans and specifications, notice to proceed and other relevant documents. The duration of the project must also be stated.

The ordinance, however, did not make any distinction. For an electric distribution utility like BENECO, following to the letter what the ordinance requires would hamper, rather than make it easy, the electric cooperative’s 24/7 operations. The city must understand contingencies. BENECO is engaged in a highly sensitive industry and its response time must be as fast as the way those electrons would move. A busted transformer, a collapsed electric pole or wayward and dangling electric cables create dangerous situations and requiring a written certification from the barangay before they could be restored would simply be absurd.

We do hope we are mistaken. But allow us to quote Sec. 2 of City Ordinance No. 26, series of 2020:

“Certification Required. No street, lane , alley, road or public place in the barangay shall bebroken or occupied for the purpose of laying conduits, ducts or pipes for electrical conductors or cables or wires and water pipes as well as major roadway construction or reconstruction and other public improvement projects, except under a written certification from the barangay stating therein that the latter had already been apprised of the proposed project to be issued within five (5) days from application.”

If the provision encompasses all kinds of improvements, then it would be self- defeating. If it excludes the daily maintenance works, then the ordinance must explicitly state so by another provision or through the definition of terms by clarifying what projects it seeks cover.

We could understand what the ordinance wants to avoid but perhaps it only sought to cover capital expenditure projects and not improvement works that are a matter of course for the electric cooperative.

Perhaps the ordinance needs fine tuning to distinguish projects undertaken by the highways from that of public utilities to avoid the danger of classification of affected entities by lump sum.

We also find the mismatch in making the certification mandatory and the purpose thereof as per paragraph 4 of Sec. 2 of the ordinance.

“It is emphasized that submission of the documents is intended to serve as guidance of the barangay in its information, education and communication (IEC) campaign regarding the nature, duration, commencement and completion of the project before its constituency. The barangay concerned shall prepare the necessary notice, announcement, notification in tarpaulin form regarding the said project for the information of the barangay.”

If this is the purpose, the barangay can then simply ask the project owner for details of the project and not make it mandatory through a penal ordinance where the offender will be made to pay P5,000.

Infrastructure projects in the first place are required to be in billboards as a means of public information. And any contractor or project owner worth his salt would find notifying the barangay a worthy move, both as a matter of courtesy and as a means of respect by telling the people to please bear with the project for the inconvenience it could cause.

What if the contractor would deliberately ignore giving the notice? Then bash the project no end. We mean media bash. We would prefer that rather than the written certification.