The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is expecting a surge of land buying in Palawan as the province reasserted anew its global popularity as a tourist destination following its recent designation by T+L Magazine as the world’s top island destination.

“The distinction enhances the value of land properties in Palawan, and we regard it as an opportunity to invigorate the real estate business, which at some point, got laid back due to the global health crisis we are all facing,” DENR MIMAROPA regional executive director Ma. Lourdes Ferrer said.

Ferrer however advised those interested to purchase real property in Palawan to perform proper due diligence before making land deals.

“Our first advice to land investors–check the status of the property you are eyeing for. Know which classifications of land can be occupied, and take note of legal proofs of ownership from the seller before buying the land,” she said.

Ferrer specifically pointed out the legal prohibition on the acquisition or occupation of forest land, a problem that has been commonly reported throughout the province.

She underscored the provisions of Presidential Decree 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines issued on May 19, 1975, which specifies that no person may utilize, exploit, occupy, possess or conduct any activity within any forestland unless he has been authorized to do so under a license agreement, lease, license, or permit.

The DENR during the term of Sec. Ramon Paje at one point suspended the titling of lands in Palawan for several years, after noting numerous contentious land transactions.

As for lands classified as alienable and disposable (A & D), Ferrer explained that land titles could not be obtained by simply showing a certification from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of these areas’ land classification as such,  more so a tax declaration for both land and improvements (structure).

“We hope to enlighten the public as we often encounter this issue on the land title application. The certification issued by the CENRO as well as tax declarations is only requirements in showing proof of ownership. They are not in any way, tantamount to a clean title of ownership,” she pointed out.

Ferrer said that stakeholders may seek clarification or guidance on land application matters from the  DENR MIMAROPA regional or provincial and community offices. While some of its stations are temporarily closed in observance of health standards against COVID-19, the agency may still be reached online through these contact details, and (02) 8428 – 3367, 8429-3367 local 2701.

As the whole nation exults in Palawan’s reclaim of World’s Best Island title, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in MIMAROPA Region calls for stronger, concerted efforts to conserve the province’s natural beauty; and urges those wishing to have a piece of the island paradise, to exercise due diligence before sealing a deal on land investments.

Palawan bagged the title for the fourth time (2013, 2016, 2017) based on the survey conducted by international travel magazine, Travel + Leisure, among its readers. The province bested 24 other islands in the world in terms of natural attractions, resorts, and overall value.

Dubbed as the country’s last ecological frontier, Palawan often tops the A-list of tourist destinations because of its rich biodiversity, idyllic beaches, landscapes, and overall scenery. Only recently, another international travel publication, the Condé Nast Traveler, hailed the Hidden Beach in El Nido, Palawan, as one of the “30 Best Beaches in the World.”

The DENR anticipates that recent distinctions received by the province would attract more tourists once travel restriction due to the pandemic eases up. With this, the agency stated that the public may expect continuous and more stringent enforcement of laws to ensure the integrity of the environment amid the influx of tourists and other related activities.

Further, the DENR also urges the public, especially those who would want to acquire real properties for business or leisure purposes in the province, to exercise due diligence when dealing with land investments.

While this may signal the revival of the province’s economic status, the director cautioned land investors to bank on rightfully informed decisions to avoid getting entangled with illegal transactions or anomalous titling of real property.

Albeit lauded as one of the most sought after tourist attractions in the world, Palawan has its share of challenges in terms of illegal settling and unlawful occupation.

“We will always be proud of our very own Palawan because its beauty is recognized worldwide and its unique biodiversity propels social and economic progress. These are the very reasons why we are geared towards tougher protection and conservation efforts, and why we are calling on everybody to do their share in protecting this special piece of land, so that we may judiciously enjoy its most beneficial use, at present and in the future,” Ferrer said.