The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has ordered Beatriz Zobel de Ayala and several other individuals to vacate a timberland area in Barangay Pancol, Taytay town, that is part of the Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape and Seascape (MSPLS).

In a statement it released Monday, the DENR MIMAROPA said the notice was signed by Taytay Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) chief Alan Valle on March 3, citing Zobel de Ayala and the others for violation of the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 7586 as amended by RA 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act of 2018.

The law prohibits (n) occupying or dwelling in any public land within the protected area without clearance from the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).

The DENR said it also forbids (o) constructing, erecting, or maintaining any kind of structure, fence or enclosure, conducting any business enterprise within the protected area without prior clearance from the PAMB and permit from the DENR, or conducting these activities in a manner that is inconsistent with the management plan duly approved by the PAMB.

The PAMB, the sole policy-making and decision-making body of MSPLS pursuant to the provisions of the E-NIPAS Act of 2018 has neither accepted from the respondents, any application for tenurial instruments nor approved any construction of structures in the said area.

Also stated in the notices to vacate (NTV) was the respondents’ violation of Presidential Decree 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines which prohibits occupation of timberland areas without proper tenurial instrument issued by the DENR.

The release said Zobel de Ayala and the other illegal occupants only have 30 days upon receipt of the notices to comply or further legal actions will be taken against them

It said further that the DENR has been monitoring the respondents’ compliance with the NTV, but was restricted due to the enhanced quarantine protocols implemented against the further spread of COVID-19.

The agency has likewise furnished a copy of the NTV to Felipe Valones in response to his letter dated May 18, 2020, which appealed for the agency to look into the alleged occupation and tree-cutting in the protected area.

Valones is the chieftain of the indigenous peoples (IPs) group Nagkakaisang Tribu Tandolanon Barangay Pancol.

In his letter to Valle on the said date, Valones said he sought the help of environment authorities to protect their ancestral land.

“Sa aming pag-iikot sa aming barangay ay napansin naming may mga permanenteng gusaling bato na naitayo sa Sitio Maypa, Barangay Pancol, Taytay na sinasakupan umano ni Gng. Beatriz Zobel de Ayala at ng mga tauhan niya,” Valones said.

“Ang pagkakaalam namin, isang ‘protected area’ ang lupain na ito at hindi maaaring magtayo ng mga permanenteng gusali dito, liban na lang kung pinahihintulutan ito ng inyong opisina,” he added.

Valones claimed in the letter that they also learned that centuries-old trees had been cut from the area, apparently without permits from the CENRO.

Valones had asked for an immediate investigation of the alleged illegal occupation, cease any activities in the area and remove the structures, stop the cutting of trees, and penalize the violators.

However, Valones had reportedly retracted his complaint to the CENRO.

DENR clarifies

The release also said that the DENR MIMAROPA wished to shed light on some information in the article “DENR probe urged on El Nido reclamation,” which was published by The Manila Times on June 13, 2020.”

The news story said that Palawan-based Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) headed by Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda has claimed that despite knowledge of the issue, the DENR has “not done any concrete actions to address these problems.

“Records and the date of the issued NTV show that even before receipt of the said letter from Mr. Valones, DENR has already conducted an investigation and has taken appropriate actions against the respondents, contrary to what was stated in the article,” regional executive director Henry Adornado explained.

“We earnestly hope that with the above-mentioned details, we have given ELAC and the general public, the clear course of actions that we have undertaken to address the matter. Our office is open for clarification so that confusion shall be avoided in publishing wrong information,” the Director remarked.