SAN VICENTE, Palawan — Residents and other stakeholders in this town are appealing to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to lift its province-wide moratorium on land titling moratorium and reclassification.
The United Tourism Enterprise Association (UNITEA) of San Vicente took the lead on this in January 2020, requesting that the ban on titling and reclassification of public timberlands be lifted immediately.
San Vicente is a designated Tourism Economic Zone, according to UNITEA President Antonio Habana in a letter to Community Environment Officer Emer Garaez, Vice Mayor Antonio Gonzales, and Mayor Amy Alvarez. However, the majority of the properties in the town are not yet titled owing to the moratorium.
He said the moratorium is a major hindrance to development as finance and capital cannot be generated from untitled lands.
Despite the presence of numerous tourism-related businesses in certain barangays, the majority of the municipality’s coastal regions, including Barangays Port Barton, Kemdeng, Sto Nino, New Canipo, and Binga, are still designated as timberland, Habana said.
Habana also said permit requirements for owning and operating tourist businesses need the use of a solid instrument of ownership. The ban, as well as the outmoded land categorization, go against the government’s and private sector’s plans to promote San Vicente as a major international tourist destination.
“These issues are major hindrances to the development of San Vicente. It is not consistent with the plans of the national and local government for the development of the flagship San Vicente Tourism Economic Zone. It is also in conflict with the tourism master plan commissioned by the Department of Tourism (DOT),” Habana said
In response to the clamor of the residents and stakeholders the Sangguniang Bayan issued Resolution No. 2020-55 dated May 18, 2020, “urgently appealing to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and USec.Juan Miguel Cuna to include the municipality of San Vicente in the lifting of the suspension of land titling.”
The Sangguniang Bayan also issued succeeding Resolution No. 2020-122 dated September 7, 2020, requesting Cimatu to support the proposed House Bill that provides the reclassification of some portions of land in the municipality from timberland to alienable and disposable.
Mayor Alvarez, who sits on the Management Committee of the San Vicente Tourism Economic Zone (SV-TEZ), has been actively pushing for the lifting of the suspension on the titling and the reclassification of timberland in meetings with the DENR through the SV-TEZ MANCOM.
In a SV-TEZ secretariat meeting on October 5, 2020, these matters were brought up. It was agreed with DENR Regional Director Lourdes Ferrer that a technical working group shall be created to study and determine areas suitable for classification.