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ITOGON, Benguet – The municipal government is proposing for the enactment of appropriate legislations or issuance of presidential directives that will segregate the built-up areas from existing reservations for these to be converted to alienable and disposable lands and given to the actual and qualified occupants.
Mayor Victorio T. Palangdan pointed out that the local governments and concerned government agencies must work together in identifying the built up areas in various reservations around the province for appropriate steps to be taken in segregating these and facilitating their re-classification to alienable and disposable lands that could be awarded to actual and qualified occupants of the said properties.
He disclosed that at present, only 18 percent of the total land area of the province are classified as alienable and disposable while the rest are either mineral reservations or proclamations covering watersheds, national parks and forest lands or so-called watersheds.
Further, in the case of the municipality, only 3 percent of the town’s over 60,000 hectares land area is classified as alienable and disposable while most of the lands fall under mineral and watershed reservations.
Mayor Palangdan explained that the proposal does not intend to intrude into the mineral or watershed reservations but it simply aims to put in order the actual situation where some areas of the said reservations are already built up areas, thus, the need for the government to facilitate the segregation of these and give the occupied lands to the actual and qualified occupants.
According to him, in the case of the mineral reservations, mining companies are not allowed to conduct their mining activities under the built up areas that is why the best that the mining firms could do is to segregate these from their mineral lands and award the same to the qualified actual occupants.
On the other hand, in the case of the watershed reservations, he suggested that concerned government agencies should craft the required comprehensive land use plans to tap the actual occupants of the said reservations to be their partners in helping sustain the efforts to preserve and protect the state of the environment to avoid the further destruction of the forests and watersheds that might have a negative impact to the environment.
The local chief executive emphasized that part of the responsibility of local governments is to make sure that such interventions must be included in their respective comprehensive land use plans (CLUPs) to ensure that appropriate remedial measures could be done to help concerned government agencies in crafting policies that will correct the prevailing situation on the ground so that people will not be unjustly displaced from the lands they have occupied for decades which had been passed on to them by their ancestors.
He emphasized that it is ironic that moneyed individuals and corporations own certain properties and were able to acquire titles to the same in the different parts of Benguet but the people remain squatters in their own land even if they have been occupying the said lands for decades compared to those from outside who acquired titles to their properties in a span of months or years. By HENT