20,000 school sites are still squatters says Luistro

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BAGUIO CITY– Some 20,000 school sites nationwide are still untitled and are illegally occupying portions of forest reservations, ancestral domains of indigenous peoples, and private properties from previous donors,” Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro said here.

Luistro said the agency is closely working with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the immediate titling of the untitled school sites in the different parts of the archipelago to avoid further complications in the existence of schools that cater to the education of today’s youth.

“We are now processing the pertinent documents of our untitled school sites so that the DENR will be able to issue the titles after the 6-month grace period for us to complete the documentation of our schools nationwide,” Secretary Luistro stressed.

Undersecretary Alberto T. Muyot of the agency’s Legal and Administrative Affairs has been tasked by Secretary Luistro to take charge of the titling of the untitled school sites nationwide so that the Aquino administration can leave a legacy in the education sector when he steps down from office by the middle of next year.

For the schools that were built in forest reservations and were found to be in order after the necessary investigation, Secretary Luistro said the DENR already authorized the different Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) to issue the required special land use patent for the schools that will qualify under the agreement.

On the other hand, the DepEd official disclosed for schools that are built within the ancestral domain of indigenous cultural communities, the concerned agency officials will be signing deeds of usufruct with the concerned tribal leaders in order to legitimize the existence of the schools in order to properly document the existence of the schools as well as pave way for the introduction of improvements by the department in the future.

For schools that were built on private properties which were donated by philanthropists in the different communities but is being withdrawn by the present generations, Secretary Luistro said concerned agency officials will try to talk to the heirs of the donors for them to legitimize things and prevent further confusion. However, he cited that if negotiations fail, the matter will be left to the decision of the court.

Secretary Luistro explained the agency scrapped some of the requirements for the processing of the titles of the schools, particularly the certification to be issued by the Department of Health (DOH) in relation to health hazards of the school sites and a separate certification from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in relation to issues and concerns of road-right-of-way considering that the schools have already existed in the areas and health hazards and road-right-of-way have been not their problems.

Luistro cited appropriate directives were already given out to the regional and provincial offices of the DepEd and DPWH in order to closely coordinate with each other to fast track the completion of the survey and documentation of the school sites within the next six months so that pertinent legal documents could already be issued to the schools showing the legitimacy of the government’s legal occupation to the existing school sites.

He assured school officials the processing of the legal documents of the school sites in the different parts of the country will be one of their priorities this year in order to prevent conflicts in the different school sites in the future.

Undersecretary Muyot claimed numerous problems of the school sites are those located in forest reservations and those built in ancestral domains of indigenous cultural communities like in the case of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) that is why the agency was able to pool its resources in order to address one of the serious problems on untitled school sites.

“We have prioritized the titling of our existing school sites to prevent informal settlers from continuously encroaching into our sites and putting the lands for public needs at risk. We want to protect our children from possible conflicts in the future,” Undersecretary Muyot stressed.

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