(File photo)

The Bureau of Corrections can reclaim the undeveloped lands it transferred in the past to the local government of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro and Puerto Princesa City, based on the released opinion of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla.

He issued the legal opinion in response to a request from Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gregorio Pio Catapang to recover the lands comprising over 12,323.20 hectares within the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm (SPPF) in Occidental Mindoro and 1,072 hectares in Barangay Sta. Lucia covered by the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF).

In Puerto Princesa City, the said parcel of land was previously declared an environmental estate in Sta. Lucia.

The area has evolved into Mayor Lucilo Bayron’s ambitious plan to transform it into a meticulously planned community, boasting a 30,000-capacity International Convention Center, a man-made lake offering water sports amenities, hotels, and a range of accommodation facilities.

Recently, he announced that they have succeeded in hurdling the first stage of declaring it a designated Tourism Enterprise Zone (TEZ) by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority.

Remulla’s opinion stated that the BuCor has the right to revoke the deeds of transfer for the said lands because the condition requiring their development has not been fulfilled. In the case of SPPF, the lands were supposed to be part of the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) distribution to farmer beneficiaries, but this has also not happened.

“After a careful review of the relevant laws and documents, we advise that the non-fulfillment by DAR of the conditions stipulated in the Deeds of Transfer gives BuCor the right to revoke the transfer,” the DOJ legal opinion stated.

Based on BuCor records, portions of the SPPF were handed over to the DAR via deeds of transfer dated September 1990, covering a total of 7,323.2 hectares, and were further augmented in October 1991 by an additional 5,000 hectares.

Portions of IPPF were transferred to the local government of Puerto Princesa City, which initially designated 1,072 hectares of the Santa Lucia Sub-Colony as an industrial-commercial site by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 350 issued in 1994.

Subsequently, it was declared an environmental estate under Presidential Proclamation 718.

BuCor aims to reclaim the lands because, according to the DOJ, in Sablayan, only 3,600 hectares out of the total 12,323.20 were transferred by the agency to farmer-beneficiaries, while in Puerto Princesa City, approximately 2,000 hectares remain undeveloped, including those in the environmental estate.