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Public or family interest?

BY: Johnny Dayang

THE furor over the proposed transfer of Dagupan City Hall to a fishpond territory, which the draft ordinance for the purpose also seeks to convert from agricultural to non-agricultural, has drawn opposing reactions from various sectors.

Dagupan is widely known for its bangus industry which is now being threatened by the massive conversion of productive fishponds along the Lucao-Dawel Diversion Road, where the proposed relocation site is located.

The proposed site is conditionally donated by businessman Kerwin Fernandez, brother of Dagupan City Mayor Belen Fernandez, whose family also lobbies members of the city’s barangay chairmen federation led by another Fernandez, to back the proposed transfer.

Lead oppositor City Vice Mayor Brian Lim points out that the planned city hall transfer “specifically to the property of the mayor’s family is an act of corruption as it will trigger the appreciation in value of the mayor’s landholdings immediately surrounding the proposed relocation site.”

Supporting the transfer idea, the City Auditor, in an opinion, argued the benefits the relocation will generate will not be limited to the adjacent properties owned by the donor but also include the other peripheral lands not owned by the donor.

The opinion is rational enough. The practice of donating lands situated in unproductive estates for public purposes, however, which is usually done by the wealthy, is very common. The ulterior motive of course is the predictable benefits the donors get from such arrangement.

Indeed, if the site donor, Kerwin Fernandez, really wants a more decent place for a new city hall, why not choose a more suitable property, which his family has in abundance, other than a fishpond?

In any case, most Dagupan folks consider their present city hall site as ideally located, not to mention the fact that having witnessed the history of their city over the last 92 years, it is now also considered a heritage landmark and a patrimonial legacy. Many of them said they are hard put to imagine their city in a fishpond.

As Vice Mayor Lim likewise noted, Dagupan needs not squander close to a R1-billion loan just to develop the proposed transfer site. “We should be focused on decongesting traffic, flood mitigation, waste management, and protecting our bangus industry. Now is not the right time to do it and the motives behind it are corrupt,” he stressed.