Aguilar orders No Friendship sticker, No Entry in Friendship Route; Collecting of fees banned
MANILA, Philippines—To enhance security and avoid a repeat of high-profile crimes that have hit the city, the Las Piñas local government has put a stop to the practice of some subdivisions that allows vehicles of nonresidents or those without Friendship Route stickers to use their private roads for a fee.
In a recent directive to police and subdivision managers, Mayor Vergel Aguilar said the 2006 ordinance creating the special route “exclusively” for city residents would be strictly enforced and the fee collections would be banned.
The Friendship Route allows Las Piñas residents to pass through more than 50 private villages in the city from 5 a.m. to 12 midnight for free, offering an alternative to the often-congested Alabang-Zapote Road.
Under the 2006 ordinance, the route is only for city residents who had secured a sticker from the local government upon submitting the required documents. According to City Hall, only about 40 percent of the residents have stickers as of last year.
But some subdivisions, apparently to augment funds for logistical concerns brought about by the route, have allowed even nonresidents or nonsticker-holders to pass through if they pay an “entrance fee” of P10 to P20 per vehicle.
Subdivision execs explain fees
As expected, Aguilar’s order did not sit well with the affected subdivisions.
Mario Vitales of First BF Homeowners Association Inc. (FBFHAI) pointed out that the Friendship Route ordinance “promised” that the city government would shoulder the maintenance and security of the route.
“Unfortunately, the [security measures] have not been fully realized, so we need to hire at least four security guards to man the gates,” Vitales said, adding that the association spends around P40,000 a month for the additional personnel.
“The Friendship Route has a cost. Where will we get the funds for it?” he said.
Asked how much his subdivision had collected from outsiders using the route, Jimmy Genato of the Pilar Village homeowners’ association recalled that in 2011 alone, the first year of the collection, the amount reached a total of P800,000.
Genato explained that the sum was a “huge help” in the security and maintenance of the village, now host to about 3,500 households.
The FBFHAI and other officers from Pilar, Royal South Townhomes, Del Nor Subdivision and Moonwalk Village, and the Villages Security Coordinating Council (VSCC) held a meeting on April 5 to discuss their options following Aguilar’s order.
The suggestions included asking the city government to allow the fee collection, but with an assurance that all vehicles will be properly recorded and issued receipts.
Another said the city government should provide a “security subsidy” for the villages or deploy more policemen and civilian watchmen along the route.
The most drastic proposal called for the closure of the Friendship Route altogether.
In the meeting, VSCC president Daniel Fajelagutan also raised the possibility of issuing special access stickers to non-Las Piñas residents—again for a fee. Fajelagutan said this was discussed with Aguilar years ago but the mayor proved lukewarm to the idea.
In an interview, Aguilar maintained that security was not lacking along the route. “It’s well-secured. There’s police deployment. We’ve installed security cameras (near subdivision gates). I regularly meet with barangay captains and remind them to do patrols in subdivisions in their areas.”
“The real issue here is that they are making a livelihood out of this,”’ he said, referring to the fee collection. “And it’s not for the homeowners but for the association officials only. If criminals get in because of what they’re doing, it’s still City Hall that gets the blame, right?”
Senior Supt. Adolfo Samala, the Las Piñas police chief, added: “They’re risking their own security for P20.”