The environment department in MIMAROPA advises the public to take safeguards and perform due diligence when dealing with real property investments, especially those involving forest and other government lands.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the region stated that Republic Act (RA) 7586, as amended by Republic Act (RA) 11038, or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act of 2018, prohibits occupying or residing on any public land within a protected area without their permission or from the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).

Similarly, Presidential Decree 705, or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, issued on May 19, 1975, stipulates that no person may utilize, exploit, occupy, possess, or conduct any activity within any forestland unless he is authorized to do so by a license agreement, lease, license, or permit.

Since pending applications for tenurial instruments or license agreements in no way indicate approval, no activity or development is permitted in the area while such applications are being reviewed or processed.

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According to the statement, DENR MIMAROPA regional executive director Lormelyn Claudio urges the public to take caution while acquiring land assets for these reasons.

“We understand that land investments entail huge amounts of resources—money, effort, and time. We want you (public) to be rightfully informed so that you will not end up putting your resources to waste, more so, facing charges merely because of misinformation,” Claudio said in the press release.

Likewise, the DENR explains that tax declarations are not evidence of ownership for forestlands and/or government lands. A tax declaration is a property record issued by provincial, city, or municipal assessors that includes the market and assessed values of the property and serves as the foundation for the collection of real property tax.

PD 705 also prohibits any public officer or employee from issuing a tax declaration without securing a certification from the DENR that the real property to be declared is alienable and disposable, and not timberland or forestland.

“That is why it is critical to know first, the classification of land you are buying. You better think twice if the parcel of land you wish to invest in is a timberland and you are only presented with a tax declaration,” the DENR MIMAROPA chief clarified.

“Being rightfully informed is our best defense against illegal transactions and anomalous titling of real properties,” she added.

Claudio further reminded Provincial and Community Environment and Natural Resources Officers (PENROs and CENROs) in the region to ensure that local officials under their jurisdiction are informed of the prohibition and penalties associated with the issuance of improper tax declarations.

MIMAROPA is composed of five island provinces, namely Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan, all of which boast of rich biodiversity that attracts thousands of tourists and investors.

Claudio expressed that while the DENR welcomes opportunities that will reinvigorate the economy from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, she asserted that the state of the environment and the enforcement of laws should not be compromised.

“We are here to ensure that environmental laws are complied with, and that our people know their responsibilities. As we always say, we all have a stake at sustaining our environment and natural resources so that they may still be enjoyed by generations to come,” she said.

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