Press Release
September 29, 2006

Drilon asks DENR to stop public bidding
of Boracay lands pending SC decision

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Franklin M. Drilon today asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) not to proceed with the plan to subject Boracay lands to public bidding ahead of a Supreme Court decision on the petition filed by Boracay landowners for prohibition and for mandamus and nullification of Proclamation 1064.

"Can we have your commitment that you will not go to that step (of putting the lands up for public bidding) until all these issues are settled in the courts? Because these landowners may suddenly find themselves scrambling and going to the court to stop bidding while these very complicated issues are pending in the courts," Drilon asked DENR Sec. Angelo Reyes during the Committee on Finance hearing on the 2007 budget of the agency.

Reyes informed Drilon that his department has "not moved an inch closer to titling or bidding out," but warned that they have the authority to demolish establishments in Boracay that are within the areas where structures should not be built and are violating environmental laws.

"We disagree with the DENR pronouncement that the owners of the resorts there should be required to bid for the land on which these properties worth hundreds of millions of pesos now stand. It is not fair that suddenly, these will be put to public bidding and cronies of this administration could dip their hands into these properties," Drilon said.

"It would appear that the issuance of Proclamation 1064 is this administration's last ditch effort to force their will on 629 hectares of Boracay lands, after exhausting legal remedies, which have resulted in unfavorable decisions against them," Drilon added.

On July 19, 1999, the RTC, Kalibo, Branch 5, rendered its decision the dispositive portion of which declared the rights of petitioners therein and those similarly situated to acquire title to their lands in Boracay in accordance with applicable laws and in the manner therein prescribed.

On December 9, 2004, the CA dismissed the appeal of DENR, et. al. and affirmed the decision of the RTC, saying that the "petitioners cannot just be prejudiced by a declaration that the lands they have occupied since time immemorial is part of forest reserve."

Proclamation 1064 was issued by President Arroyo on May 22, 2006, classifying Boracay Island into Reserved Forest Land and into Agricultural Land (Alienable and Disposable).

"The issuance of this proclamation is prejudicial to Boracay land owners as this was issued by Malacañang when the case before the Supreme Court is pending resolution," Drilon said.

This proclamation enables "the government, through DENR to dispose and alienate the said land classified as agricultural, including the buildings and improvements standing thereon, through sales patent, at public bidding, at their market value pursuant to law, with the occupant-claimant owner, being given only the preference to buy by matching the highest bid at the auction sale. The value of the building and improvements introduced by the occupant shall not be paid by him but only the land if he wins the bid."

"At the very least, equity is in favor of these land owners in Boracay because they invested hundreds of millions of pesos to improve the property and make it a tourist attraction that it is now today. Can you imagine, they will be bidding on a property which they improved and which they have to pay now for again? This is not equitable. This is not proper," Drilon pointed out.

In the case pending with SC (GR No. 173775), which was filed August 11, 2006 by Boracay landowners, the proclamation entails "the implementation of the fifteen meters buffer zone from each side of the centerline of the road as reservation for forest land protection would practically wipe out the land area of petitioners' resorts, located in the beach front area bounded at the back by the barangay road."

The petition also prays for the urgent issuance of temporary restraining order on the implementation of the proclamation, as it "has caused and is causing a chilling effect on petitioners and stakeholders in Boracay grave and irreparable injury will be caused the petitioners, the landowners, the investors and other stakeholders in the tourism industry."

"We must remember that these people have been there at least for the past 30 years, through themselves and their predecessors in interest, paying land taxes. Under the law, 30 years or more of open, uncontested possession over land can ripen into ownership," Drilon said.

The petitioners argue that "the implementation of Proclamation 1064 will destroy the tourism industry in Boracay, classified almost 20 years ago as tourist zone and marine reserve, to which classification petitioners, investors and landowners and the country have invested billions to make Boracay the prime tourist destination in Asia and to which classification as tourism they have acquired vested rights."

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