The Busuanga municipal government blocked a group of more than 100 informal settlers early Monday morning from occupying a 20,000-hectare pasture reserve under its jurisdiction.
The land is part of the 40,000-hectare landholding that was leased in the past to the Yulo King Ranch (YKR) but is now under the management of the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Jonathan Dabuit, information officer and executive assistant under the office of Busuanga mayor Elizabeth Cervantes, said personnel from their municipal police station and troops from the Marine Battalion Landing Team 3 assisted in preventing the squatters from occupying a part of the BPR near Chinibayan Falls in Barangay New Busuanga.
“Nangyari ‘yan kanina mga around 8:30 a.m. Tumawag sa akin si mayor Beth na meron ngang report coming from barangay officials ng New Quezon at saka ng New Busuanga na may mga pumasok nga raw na mga more than 100 na katao,” he said.
Dabuit said the illegal occupants belong to the Buklod ng Magsasaka (BNM), a registered organization in the MIMAROPA.
However, Dabuit said the members are from Brgy. Decalachao in Coron and Nangalao in Linapacan.
“Bini-verify pa namin… hindi ko pa ma-ascertain ‘yong veracity ng mga iniisip namin ngayon kung bakit sila nandyan. Meron bang sabwatan dito? May mga spotter ba sila? Meron ding mga tumutulong mula sa ibang lugar kung bakit sila nandyan,” he said.
“Hindi galing ‘yan ng Busuanga. Hindi mga legitimate na magsasaka ‘yan na galing sa amin sa Busuanga. Meron kaming mga lokal na magsasaka,” Dabuit added.
Dabuit said that the BPR is covered by President Rodrigo Duterte’s February 2019 issued Executive Order (EO) 75, which directs all departments, bureaus, offices, and instrumentalities to identify government-owned lands that are suitable for agriculture and distribution to qualified farmer-beneficiaries.
He said the utilization of the YKR is now being studied by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for distribution. But until then, it is government property and no one should be allowed to occupy without passing through legal procedures.
Dabuit said he had a meeting on November 8 with DAR and the DENR to plan the creation of the BPR Task Force to have recommending power based on EO 75.
“Ang ginagawa ni local government unit ngayon ay magpapalabas na tayo ng executive order for the creation of the BPR Task Force na magkakaroon siya ng recommending power kung ano ‘yong best utilization ng part ng Busuanga na lupa. For example, icla-classify ba siyang alienable and disposable? Kasi dyan sa comprehensive land use plan (CLUP) ng Busuanga. hindi detailed ‘yong utilization kasi hindi nga ‘yan part noong regular na lupa na nasasakupan ng Busuanga,” he said.
Dabuit said an investigation is being conducted to determine if the illegal occupants are part of a squatting syndicate and to make them liable for violating Section 27 of Article 7 of Republic Act 7279 or “Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992”.
He said the municipal government is warning all organized groups that are attempting to enter the BPR to stop or they will file cases against them.
“Binabalaan ng lokal na pamahalaan ang lahat ng organized groups na nais pumasok sa nasasakupan ng Busuanga na gagamitin natin ang kapangyarihan ng batas upang ipatupad ang paglaban sa mga professional at syndicated squatters. Ganoon din sa nga taga-Busuanga na makikipagsabwatan sa kriminal na gawaing ito,” Dabuit said.
Dabuit said this is the second time that informal settlers attempted to occupy the YKR.
In September 2018, Pesante Pilipinas, Inc. (PPI) farmer-leader Arnel Figueroa was shot and killed by a YKR security guard following a heated argument about the illegal occupation of the land.
“First time na major ito, but my nauna ‘yong kay Oloroso dati. Kaya ngayon mas nagiging vigilant kami,” he said.