Now a 3-cornered fight: Mayor seeks legal help on island’s ownership

Judy Flores Partlow (The Freeman) - July 8, 2017 - 4:00pm

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines — Mayor Glenson Alanano of Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental has announced plans of the local government unit to claim full ownership of the now controversial Turtle Island, also known as Polo, fronting Siit Bay.

Turtle Island is currently the bone of contention between the LGU of Siaton and Provincial Legal Counsel Richard Enojo, in his private capacity, over ownership claims of what is actually a peninsula that is officially declared as public land by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Alanano told reporters Thursday that he knew of a previous agreement between former mayor Albert Ator of Siaton and Mayor Kit Mark Adanza of Zamboanguita—witnessed by the DENR—on the declaration of a political boundary through the setting up of municipal boundary markers (MBMs) a few years back.

But Alanano believed the land in question belongs entirely to Zamboanguita because it is attached to Barangay Lutuban in the mainland where it can be accessed by foot, while getting there from Siaton requires taking a motorboat ride across Siit Bay.

The Zamboanguita mayor said he is now consulting with lawyers and will be seeing DENR officials to discuss on the status of Turtle Island, which is known for being a natural nesting area for endangered sea turtles. He said that he is looking at the possibility of having the previous agreement by the former mayors nullified.

Alanano admitted that he was surprised to hear that lawyer Enojo and the Siaton LGU, headed by Mayor Fritz Diaz, were locked in an ownership dispute over Turtle Island.

Enojo claimed to have bought “possessory rights” from a man who had lived on the island for 34 years, which Diaz debunked, saying that the person had been away for about 10 years and could not be located.

The lawyer fenced off a portion of Turtle Island triggering a confrontation between his men and supporters of Mayor Diaz.

Enojo also accused Diaz of having plans to develop the island as a tourist destination by bringing there some potential investors. He said he has sought a temporary restraining order from the court to prevent any development on the island.

Alanano, for his part, said he also deployed police personnel and some men to keep watch over Turtle Island, same with what the Siaton mayor had done before.

The DENR here has reiterated that, to date, the island does not have a rightful owner except the government because nobody has applied for a tenure instrument with the department. —/PNA (FREEMAN)

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