COA to Clark airport execs: Why pay millions to squatters who turned land to farms?

Three squatter families illegally converted huge tracts of land inside the Clark Civil Aviation Complex into farms, and officials paid millions of pesos to get them to move out. Now, the Commission on Audit (COA) has questioned the logic of it.

In its 2018 annual audit report, the COA told officials of the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) to explain why the compensation to illegal settlers should not be disallowed.

Records showed the three families were paid P2.065 million, P1.763 million, and P1.065 million through Land Bank of the Philippines checks all released on April 30, 2018.

These totaled P4.893 million, which meant only three families cornered 66 percent of the P7.363 million spent by the CIAC as “financial assistance.” Other families received amounts as low as P30,720.

The CIAC, in its comment on the audit observations, said it immediately stopped the payments after the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) issued its September 7, 2018 legal opinion against the practice.

The OGCC had noted the settlers were “possessors in bad faith” and were not entitled to any indemnity or compensation. Instead, they should only be given enough financial assistance to help them relocate.

The state firm said it was only continuing the policies of previous CIAC administrations dating back to 2009.

Auditors also noted the lack of certification from the CIAC Inspectorate Team that the areas previously occupied by the illegal settlers were completely cleared.

Illegal tillers had to be removed because their farms were attracting flocks of birds and causing 146 incidents of bird strikes from 2010 to 2016.

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