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Cebu News

Sale of watershed lots questioned

Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Some portions of the lands within the 29,062-hectare Cebu Central Protected Landscape (CCPL) have been sold to private individuals even if these are not titled.

The unauthorized sale of these lots is among the issues confronting the protected area raised during yesterday's watershed tour for members of the media.

"Ang problema gyud namo sa CCPL kay kaning baligyaanay sa yuta unya tax declaration ra baya ni ilang gikuptan unya ang mamalit gyud ang mga datu. Ang mga illegal settlers diri, di mga pobre but mga datu," said Merceditas Espinar, CCPL assistant protected area superintendent, in a press conference after the tour.

CCPL is a water catchment basin in Cebu. It consists of the Buhisan Watershed Forest Reserve, Mananga Watershed Forest Reserve, Sudlon National Park, Central Cebu National Park and the Kotkot-Lusaran Watershed Forest Reserve located in the cities of Cebu, Talisay, Toledo and Danao, and in the municipalities of Minglanilla, Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela, and Balamban. 

The total area spans 61 barangays.

Jose Cleo Cary Colis, area superintendent, said some rich people have opted to buy lands at the protected area because they are cheap.

"One hectare is P1 million," said Colis, who incidentally also heads the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office.

According to CPPL officials, they respect the prior rights of landowners whose properties were titled before the watersheds and parks were proclaimed as protected areas. In this sense, these properties can be sold, inherited, exchanged, donated or subdivided.

However, they said development of the lands should adhere to the policies and rules governing protected areas. After the proclamation as protected areas, they can no longer be titled.

Of the 29,062 hectares, at least a third are alienable and disposable while the rest is owned by the State and cannot be sold.

CCPL officials said that interested land buyers or speculators should verify first the status of the land with the Community Environment and Natural Resources, PENR, DENR and CCPL.

"So buyers, beware. The assessors were already instructed not to convert tax declaration into a title, otherwise they will be made liable," Colis said.

Aida Granert, Soil and Water Conservation Foundation project coordinator, said that it is important that people should be educated on the issue to prevent future problems.

Meanwhile, Espinar said they are currently eyeing four areas within the CCPL as potential eco-tourism sites that may provide income for the local community.

CCPL is one of the protected areas under management of the DENR-7, under Republic Act No. 9486 approved on June 7, 2007.

"With the help of our media partners, we believe we can put more emphasis on the need for the protection of our watersheds in order to ensure the continuity of their productive condition as it addresses food security, poverty reduction and even climate change mitigation," said DENR-7 OIC Regional Director Emma Melana in a statement.

Yesterday's tour was jointly initiated by the DENR-7 and Soil and Water Conservation Foundation Inc. to further strengthen information, education and communication campaign on the protection and conservation of watersheds.

William Granert, SWCFI executive director, briefed the members of the media about the watersheds and their locations.

SWCFI is a non-government organization geared towards protection and rehabilitation of three of theCCPL watersheds.

The foundation assists local communities to better manage and conserve their natural resources through agro-forestry, livestock integration, nursery development, water systems construction and maintenance, community organization, farmers' capability building and leadership training, local governance and gender enhancement. (FREEMAN)

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