The intention of the national government to award land to some indigent and landless local residents in Puerto Princesa City turned out to be problematic after the 16-year old Presidential Proclamation was not properly implemented.
The City Council summoned recently the concerned agencies, offices, and organizations to shed light on the matter concerning the occupation of mangrove areas in Barangay Iwahig, formerly part of the Iwahig Prison and Penal Colony.
In 2004, then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 718 by segregating portions of Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan and declared the same as Civil Reservation for Resettlement and Agricultural Sites purposes.
The area covering 14,394,686 square meters or 1,439 hectares consisted of two lots—-Lot 1 is situated in Sitio Malamig and Sitio Bucana in Iwahig, while Lot 2 is situated in Sitio Tagbarungis in Barangay Inagawan.
Several government agencies and offices were present during the committee meeting of the Committee on the Land Estate chaired by City Councilor Victor Oliveros but the association recognized by Local Inter-Agency Committee (LIAC)—-Palawan Landless and Farmers Association—-was unable to attend.
The irregularities allegedly committed by the Palawan Landless and Farmers Association caused the illegal occupation and encroachment by some local residents of the mangrove areas.
Several individuals who are occupying mangrove areas in Sitio Bucana have alleged that Danilo Malonzo, who is the association president, allowed them to erect their houses within the mangrove areas.
Jonah Escubin said that she paid P1,000 to Malonzo before her family erected a house in Sitio Bucana. Vevincia Reyes, another informal settler in the area said that she paid a membership fee of P1,000 and after that she was allowed to erect their house within a 200-meter area within the mangroves area. Both Escubin and Reyes were ordered to vacate by the City Government until July 18, 2020.
City Councilor Victor Oliveros said that Proclamation No. 718 has been since very problematic since individuals who claimed to be beneficiaries of the land have already occupied it before the proper processes are observed.
“Maraming problema ang (Proclamation) 718 dapat ay na-segregate na ang dapat ma-segregate. Bukod sa hindi pa na-segregate, yung una ng naging beneficiaries, nabigyan ng CELA ay kanilang nai-benta. Naibenta ang CELA. Dapat ay may support project ang government para manatili sa kanila (beneficiaries) ang lupa. Ito ay kanilang naibenta (CELA) para maitawid ang pangangailangan nila sa buhay,” said Oliveros.
Felizardo Cayatoc, Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer of the DENR-CENRO said that they have already conducted survey in Lot 1, specifically located in Sitio Malamig and Sitio Bucana covering an area of 916.9 hectares, which there are 644 lots delineated, excluding the mangrove areas and its 40-meter buffer zones, part of the coastal easement, since these are strict protection zones and not subject for any occupation.
“Natapos na yung paghiwalay ng 40-meter buffer zone kasama po yung mangroves, kasi its very clear stated sa Presidential Proclamation 718 na hindi isasama ang mangroves. May 644 lots na nai-delineate dyan. Tapos na naming ma-survey ito last year. Ang magiging product nito ay Land Classification Map issued by National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA),” said.
The exclusion of mangroves and swampy areas is clearly stated in the Proclamation since the cutting, gathering and utilization of all natural resources within the proclaimed site shall be subject to the existing DENR rules and regulations.
“Any mangrove and/or swampy areas, found inside the area, is hereby segregated from the coverage of this proclamation and should not be disturbed nor alienated. Existing laws, rules and regulations affecting salvage zones and foreshore areas shall be strictly enforced. As such, the forty (40) meter easement shall be maintained as open area environmental protection,” the Proclamation reads.
The proclamation likewise created the Local Inter-Agency Committee (LIAC) with the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council as Chair, the City Government of Puerto Princesa as Co-Chair, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, and a representative of the People’s Organization in the area as members.
The City Government is determined to rid the mangrove areas of informal settlers. The city’s natural resources and its rich biodiversity especially in the coastal area has been compromised due to the uncontrolled illegal occupation in the mangroves area.