Rep. Franz "Chicoy" Alvarez (1st district, Palawan) with his family during is oath-taking and induction on June 30, 2019. (Contributed photo)

Representative Franz “Chicoy” Alvarez (1st district, Palawan) is set to file a bill seeking the reclassification of lands in the province, particularly in the “problem areas” of El Nido and Coron where timberlands are being occupied by illegal settlers.

Speaking to Palawan News over the weekend, Rep. Alvarez said he will file the bill this month, hoping to resolve illegal land occupation issues in the two towns that cropped up after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a nationwide crackdown against businesses that violate the Clean Water Act and pollute coastal areas.

“Mag-fi-file ako ng bill tungkol sa reclassification ng mga lupa, especially dito sa mga problemang areas like sa El Nido at Coron. Balak ko mag-file as soon as possible, pinag-aaralan ko na nga at ginagawa kasi critical din na issue. Like ‘yong bayan ng El Nido na nasa loob ng protected area, bakit hindi pa gawin na commercial area samantalang may tao na doon,” he said.

In April 2018, former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional director Natividad Bernardino said that in El Nido nearly 40 business establishments are occupying public lands with spurious land titles.

She said the land titles covering the areas occupied should not have been issued because they are classified as timberland in the 1935 DENR land classification map.

In Coron, she said over 4,000 Yolanda-affected victims have become informal settlers, dwelling in mangrove areas that are part of the salvage and easement zones.

Alvarez pointed out there is now a need to “update the classifications of lands in the two municipalities in northern Palawan to resolve what can still “be a potential future problem”.

“Kailangang i-update na natin ang land-use classification. Urgent ‘yan kasi sa Coron ganoon din ang problema. Syempre kailangan natin pangunahan dahil grabe ang development at mahirap naman na tayo lagi ang naghahabol. Kung baga dapat forward thinking tayo,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez added Palawan has been actively promoting its tourism industry to meet visitor arrival targets to further stir economic growth, but the problem on land classification may hinder that if unresolved since long months of closure can happen like in Boracay.

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