The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) will begin moving 2,500 medium and minimum security inmates from the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa to the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF) in Puerto Princesa City in May as part of plans to close the state penitentiary and convert it into a commercial district.

According to Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr., the first batch of 500 persons deprived of their liberty (PDL) would be moved next month. He did not provide a specific timetable.

He said that the transfer of the persons deprived of their liberty (PDL) will be aided by both the Philippine Navy (PN) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF). The navy ships have a capacity of 500 individuals each, while the C-130 aircraft can accommodate up to 120 individuals.

“Of course, it will be a logistical nightmare kasi bibiyahe sila. But with proper coordination, we can accomplish the mission to transport them,” he said.

The qualified minimum PDLs incarcerated within the IPPF will be the first group to reside in the re-established Barrio Libertad. It was a common practice in the 1970s for inmates to reside with their families within the IPPF under minimal security.

The bureau believes that the program could contribute to the continuous reformation and boost the morale of PDLs while they are incarcerated. Catapang also wants them to be involved in environmental conservation efforts and protecting BuCor’s assets.

“Marami silang gagawin, magri-replant kami for carbon trading kasi may portions dito na nakalbo na, illegal logging. We want to protect our assets, make sure na walang illegal na gagawin dito sa lupa namin (They will have a lot of things to do. We will do reforestation for carbon trading because there are areas here that are bald due to illegal logging. We want to protect our assets and ensure that no illegal activities are conducted on our land),” he said.

Sending PDLs to IPPF is part of the decongestion efforts of the bureau and its vision to transfer out all from NBP by 2028. It is geared toward transforming NBP into the BuCor Global City.

At IPPF, PDLs will go back to the system as a prison without bars, Catapang added. Once transferred, PDLs will also be involved in farming activities to help sustain food sufficiency inside the prison and even for locals.

“I want to make them productive because we are spending P120,000 each for them just to make sure that they are well taken care of. Ang problema sa New Bilibid, masyado na kaming sobra sa lata ng sardinas, namamatay pa sila, nagkakasakit. Minsan, nakakalimutan pa ilibing (The problem in New Bilibid is that we are too many like we’re canned sardines, and they get sick or die. Sometimes, they even forget to bury them), he said.

“When I came in, I had to bury 140 dead na naiwan lang sa punirarya (left by their families in funeral homes). Not even their families are claiming them so we will not let that happen. This will be a very productive area and it will be for everyone,” Catapang added.

The ongoing construction of a 10-hectare dormitory compound will also help house the additional PDLs in IPPF. It has a fund of P300 million with 50 cells inside. The prison management has no date yet on the completion of the facility, which construction started in 2021.

On the other hand, the super-maximum security prisoners or supermax from NBP will be transferred to Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.