The Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) has sought to allay fears that their plan to convert unclassified forest lands in Palawan to alienable and disposable (A&D) conflicts with the Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) zoning of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

During a recent hearing of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Protection of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, PENRO officer in charge Felizardo Cayatoc said they have recommended a total of 164,623.43 hectares of unclassified forest lands to be declared as A&D based on the system of land classification under Presidential Decree 705. He said they have made a thorough consideration of everything, including the ECAN zoning of Republic Act 7611, or the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan.

“This is very important kasi it addresses yung different zonations from ridge to reef natin. So lahat ng plano, even yung tinatawag na Forest Land Use Plan (FLUP), yung Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan (CLWUP), or other plans, ay dapat anchored doon sa SEP law,” Cayatoc stated.

He added that they are coordinating with the PCSD Staff regarding the proposed delineation of lands.

“Even with the formulation of FLUP, considered yan kasi dapat coordinated sa lahat [including the local government units (LGU)], nang sa ganun, ma-reconcile yung different plans ng bawat munisipyo at ma-harmonize whatever conflicting issues that include the existing environmental laws,” he explained.

Cayatoc made the explanation in response to committee chair Board Member Ryan D. Maminta’s query regarding the proposal.

“That is one thing we wanted to clarify before we make any recommendation. Dapat coordinated and thoroughly discussed. Kumbaga dapat may conformance doon sa SEP at sa mandato ng PCSD. Kung magkakaroon ng conflict ay Malaki ang problema natin,” Maminta said.

“Complete staff work naman ang ginagawa so ibig sabihin lahat ng ahensiya ng pamahalaan ay kinakausap. So we have a presumption of regularity doon sa ginagawa nila,” he added.

Cayatoc also said once the proposal is approved, it will open floodgates of land titling applications that will add to the lifting of the moratorium where there are already around 4,000 pending applications.

“And there are still applications na existing doon sa mga respective CENROs. So yung pag-lift also ay may ipinasang DENR memorandum circular that adds requirements that includes barangay certification, confirmation na ang lupa ay talagang agricultural or A&D land, tax declaration issued by LGU and other measures.

Ramon Paje, who was the environment secretary at the time, stopped giving out land titles in 2015 because of several conflicts and cases.

The suspension was first lifted in eight municipalities on March 2 this year and was fully lifted on March 9.

Cayatoc said the lifting of the moratorium would somehow be favorable to LGUs with an increased collection of real property taxes.

He also stated that it will be beneficial on a socioeconomic level.

“Of course, nandoon din yung social justice dahil yung lupain nila ay mayroon nang titulo and the owners can use this as a collateral para magamit sa business pero sana, ang hinihingi naman natin, sana ay huwag nila ibenta kasi pwedeng pamana,” he said.

“And with the suspension, we also learned so many things. Sinasabi ko nga sa mga CENRO natin, exercise due diligence sa titling,” he added.

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