Problems in the 2016 Right-of-Way (ROW) Law or Republic Act (RA) 10752 are hampering the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure buildup and must be addressed to fast-track projects and minimize wastage of government resources, a congressional think-tank said on Wednesday.

The Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department, in a policy brief titled “Strengthening the ROW Act to Accelerate Infrastructure Growth,” said the government should look for permanent solutions to ROW issues such as disputes over valuation and delays in expropriation cases.

Among the ROW issues that need to be resolved, it said, are:

  • the use of current market value (CMV), instead of the zonal value, during the negotiation stage. Several negotiations have failed supposedly due to valuation problems leading to more complex and lengthy expropriation proceedings in the courts. Many private owners wanted a higher compensation than the CMV for their properties, and in some cases, the zonal value of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is higher than the implementing agency’s (IA) offer price;
  • the need for a “Valuation Board” similar to the Real Property Valuation Service (RPVS) proposed under the Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform Act or House Bill 4664, which will be helpful in setting and deciding on the suitable compensation of properties to be acquired for ROW. Under the proposed bill, the RPVS which is under the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) will develop, adopt, and maintain valuation standards consistent with the generally accepted valuation standards and regulations for real estate appraisal;
  • the procurement of independent property appraisers accredited by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, (BSP), when it is not within the functions of the BSP to accredit independent property appraisers;
  • just compensation for informal settlers, on whether they are entitled to relocation cost or the replacement cost, or both;
  • treatment of facilities of public and private utility providers within government properties in the event that the government intends to use these properties; and
  • lack of disclosures of important information in ROW acquisition.

The think tank proposed putting up a Special Court for ROW cases for faster handling and resolution of ROW expropriation cases, as the requirement that courts must issue the Writ of Possession seven days after the IA has initiated the expropriation proceedings and after the payment of 100 percent of the zonal value of the property is not strictly followed because of clogged court dockets.

It also proposed a Central ROW Unit to give attention to and work on all ROW acquisition efforts of the government, and mandated to accelerate the government’s ROW acquisition activities so that project construction could proceed on schedule and at a lower cost.

“It is important that the government finds timely and permanent solutions to ROW acquisition problems which have perennially delayed the implementation of public infrastructure projects,” the think tank said.

“Recently, the government has allocated bigger budgets for ROW payments by IAs, and the challenge for them is to optimally utilize these billions of taxpayer’s money for ROW purposes to accelerate infrastructure growth,” it added.

The think tank said low disbursement rates of the ROW funds of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), at 5.7 percent in 2017 and 0.07 percent in 2018, were “particularly worrisome because they are indicative not only of the extent of unpaid ROW cases in the country but also on the overall delay in government’s ROW acquisition, and consequently infrastructure development.” (