A new version of a bill has been filed in the House of Representatives that seeks to reclassify certain parcels of land in five barangays in Aborlan municipality as alienable and disposable (A&D) territories for possible distribution to farmers.

Rep. Edward Hagedorn of Palawan’s 3rd District said that House Bill 4889 was brought back from the 14th Congress to help farmers in the barangays of Iraan, Sagpangan, Magbabadil, and Cabigaan, all in the town of Aborlan, who have been farming on an estimated 2,596.50 hectares of land they do not own since they have not been declared A&D from being timberlands.

“Yan ang problema natin–nakikita ko yong mga tao doon, nagcu-cultivate sila ng lupa, [pero] wala silang hawak na papeles. Karamihan [ang hawak] barangay certification lang,” Hagedorn said during a meeting with the members of the Puerto Princesa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.

He said that most of the people in the five barangays depend on farming, fishing, and raising livestock. However, Aborlan is having trouble keeping up with agricultural production because the farmers don’t have tenurial instruments over the lands they are tilling.

This is why Aborlan is known as the “sleeping municipality.” Venture capitalists are apprehensive about investing in agricultural enterprises because many people in the barangays lack land titles, Hagedorn said.

“Hindi sila makautang sa bangko, wala silang titulong isasangla. Ang problema kaya hindi sila matituluhan ay dahil yong lupang sinasaka nila, ang classification is timberland, ay pero wala ng timber,”he said.

“So, napaka unfair naman doon sa mga taong hindi makalapit sa bangko para mangutang, kaya pumupunta sa mga five-six. Magigising na lang sila, yong lupa nila nakumpiska na,” he added.

Areas with no more forests, he stressed, should already be declared A&D lands for farmers who have long been wanting to have titles over them.

If passed, the bill would not only be conferring titles of ownership to the farmers who have been living on the lands for a long time, but would also alleviate poverty and unemployment in the municipality.

In the bill’s explanation, Hagedorn said that asking for the timberlands to be declared to A&D does not mean that IP rights should be ignored.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.