City vows crackdown on professional squatters

Professional squatters are those who intentionally land grab a property owned by the government or a private individual (file phto)

The city government has tasked its anti-squatting office to investigate the rising incidents of illegal squatting and construction in public and private lands in different barangays of Puerto Princesa.

City legal officer and acting administrator Atty. Arnel Pedrosa said they have been alerted about the issue by barangay officials and private landowners, particularly from barangays San Manuel and San Jose.

“We’ve noticed that most of those occupying these public and private properties are professional squatters. Since there’s no one guarding the land, they occupy it, and sell it later on,” Pedrosa told the media on Monday, March 11.

Professional squatters, he explained, are those who intentionally land grab a property owned by the government or a private individual. These people, he said, usually invite other potential squatters to join them.

“They would put up their structures, reside in it for a while, then sell to land buyers,” he said.

Pedrosa said it has become a common practice in the city.

“Later on, when their structures are up for demolition, they will ask for a relocation which is unfair,” he said.

“They can buy a land which they claimed an abandoned property and yet they are seeking relocation. It’s not right. If you can buy a land without a guaranteed title, then you can also buy a land with a legitimate title,” he added.

For professional squatters encroaching on private lands, Pedrosa said pursuing a legal action is up to the owners’ private lawyers. Once there’s a demolition order from the court, he said the city government will provide assistance through the Anti-Squatting Task Force and City Engineering Demolition Team.

“However, if they are professional squatters occupying government lands, we will have them investigated through the City’s Council Against Squatter Syndicates and Professional Squatters (CASSAPS) to satisfy the due process,” he added.

Pedrosa said informal settlers, who are the urban poor dwelling for the longest time in coastal areas, are entitled to relocation. “But if the CASSAPS found them to be professional squatters occupying the area since recently, they will be subjected to demolition,” he said.

The matter was also referred to the City Council’s peace and order and public safety committee for discussion and possible legislative action

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