BORACAY ISLAND, Malay, Aklan (via INews)–Take it from someone who just visited and had seen for himself the pressing need to infuse more funds in order to finish the rehabilitation and improvement works on this island.
ACT-CIS Partylist Representative Eric Yap declared today that he will do everything to make sure Boracay Island gets additional funding once the bill creating Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA) is finally passed into law.
Yap, vice chairman of the House Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization, who is principal co-author of Davao City Congressman Paolo Duterte of the BIDA bill, visited Boracay over the weekend to meet with stakeholders and local officials and shared with them the many benefits that the island will reap once the proposed measure is passed into law.
“I’ve seen the works of the DENR and it’s marvelous. We already have improved roads and pavements have been constructed too, but I’ve noticed that there are still portions with unfinished structures apparently showing the lack of funding to finally complete the task of rehabilitating the main infrastructures of the island,” Yap said in an interview this morning with Todo Latigo Program anchored by Jonathan Cabrera over Radyo Todo.
“This simply means that the DENR fund isn’t really enough to finish the task. What is important here though is that if the BIDA bill is passed into law, we will infuse additional funding to kickstart the island’s development under BIDA,” Yap, who is also currently the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, assured.
On November 11, the House joint Committee approved the passage of the BIDA bill which has been levelled up to make Boracay Island a special economic zone and for BIDA to exist as a Government-Owned and Controlled Corporation (GOCC) supervised by the Office of the President.
Yap said that due to the significance of the measure for the country’s tourism industry, Congress is bent to fasttrack its approval.
“We will make sure that before the recess of the House session on Dec. 16, this bill is already passed into 3rd and final reading so we can start working with our counterparts in the Senate to pass this measure upon the resumption of the session next year,” he said.
Yap said he is confident BIDA bill will make an easy ride during the plenary session with now almost 200 legislators supporting for its passage.
“After we passed it in Congress, we will dialogue with our fellow legislators in the Senate and explain to them the importance of BIDA and hopefully the President will finally sign it into law before the Boracay Task Force expires its extended term by May next year,” he said.
“We really need to pass this very soon. We will work hard and fast to make sure that our counterparts in the Senate realize that this has to be listed in the order of priorities. If needed, I am willing to travel back and forth in order defend to the Senate the passage of this measure,” he assured.
LAND TITLING ISSUES
In his briefing with the stakeholders and landowners, Yap also said he will look into the predicaments raised regarding land titling issues on the island.
“I understand that most of the lands here cannot be titled since the DENR suspended it during the last administration. I believe it’s about time cadastral surveys are upgraded for the landowners to finally have their properties titled,” he said.
“If the BIDA is passed into law, this is one of the priority issues that we will address for the benefit of the landowners on the island,” Yap said.
The issue of land titling has become a perennial problem resulting in violent clashes among feuding claimants here.
Right now, most land claimants in Boracay pay tax declarations, many for more than 30 years, as proof of ownership or rights over lots.
The landowners dilemma started with the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 1801 by then President Marcos in 1978 declaring Boracay as tourist zones and marine reserve area.
This was later amended by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s who issued Presidential Proclamation 1064 in 2006 delineating the island into Forestland and as Alienable and Disposable classification.
The Proclamation categorized 628.96 hectares or 60.94 percent of the island, as alienable and disposable (ownership is transferable), and the rest as forestland and protected areas.
Presidential Decree 705, or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines signed in 1975, defined alienable and disposable lands as public lands that have “been the subject of the present system of classification and declared as not needed for forest purposes.”
Under PD 705, lands classified as forestland cannot be used if no permit is issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). In addition, Commonwealth Act 141 states that agricultural land is considered public land, which means that the government can decide how the land is to be used.
The DENR said though that an exception to this are lands that were issued a title before June 12, 1945, based on the registration code of the Philippines.
“If no title exists, the government can choose how to use or dispose of land classified as alienable and disposable,” it said.
Property claimants questioned Proclamation 1064 in the Supreme Court citing commercial development and residential structures in these areas. They also argued that it prevents them from acquiring titles.
The High Court unanimously upheld the proclamation, declaring the entire Boracay a property of the state, except those with titles, but noted that those occupying and possessing land on the island categorized as agricultural and alienable could still seek remedies to acquire titles, noting “Lack of title does not necessarily mean lack of right to possess.”
The Supreme Court also noted that Congress may pass a law to exempt property claimants from certain requirements of existing land laws to allow them to have their properties titled.