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Boracay to be developed as forest land – DENR official

October 9, 2008 6:04pm

Tags: Boracay
MANILA, Philippines – In the wake of a Supreme Court decision declaring Boracay as state-owned land, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday said that it will develop the island as a forest land.

In an interview with reporters, Undersecretary Manuel Gerochi said that the move is to control commercial developments in the area and to prevent further environmental deterioration.

“Principally, we want to preserve the area because of its function as a forest. It might not be covered by trees at this point in time … but what is sure in Boracay (is that) there are forests," Gerochi said.

“What we want is to enhance that area as a forest because it has a vital function for that island," he added.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court upheld a two-year-old presidential proclamation declaring Boracay Island as forest land and agricultural area owned by the state.

Proclamation 1064, issued by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, classified Boracay Island into 400 hectares of reserved forest land, for "protection purposes" and 628.96 hectares of agricultural land, which is "alienable and disposable."

Gerochi added that the state-owned agricultural land can be opened for private ownership and can be titled.

Gerochi, however, clarified that tax declarations only provide private claimants the right to occupy the lands and not ownership.

“When you buy a tax declaration, it’s not ownership that you’re buying. It is occupation and possession. Ang ibig sabihin ng (the meaning of) tax declaration, it does not vest you ownership. So these people who bought tax declarations and say it’s theirs already is not true," Gerochi said.

But the Court on Wednesday said that while private claimants are ineligible to apply for titles, this does not translate to their automatic ouster from the residential, commercial and other areas they posses now classified as agricultural.

“Neither will this mean the loss of their substantial investments on their occupied alienable lands. Lack of title does not necessarily mean lack of right to possess," the Court said.

Likewise, Malacañang reassured resort owners Thursday there will be no closure of their establishments.

In a radio interview, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said these owners will have to comply with regulations and apply for special permits under certain tenurial agreements. - Carlo Lorenzo and Sophia M. Dedace, GMANews.TV
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Tags: Boracay