Press Release
October 15, 2012

Senate oks conversion of forest land into agri land in Surigao

The Senate today approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to convert three parcels of timberland in Surigao City into an alienable and disposable land.

Senator Chiz Escudero, chairman of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and sponsor of House Bill 1719, said the enactment of the proposed legislation into law will enable the government to distribute the three parcels of land to local residents already occupying the area.

"These parcels of land, with an aggregate area of 649.3466 hectares are currently classified as forest land or timberland but the area is actually being utilized either for residential, commercial, industrial or governmental usage. There is no existing forest land," Escudero said.

He said houses, buildings and concrete roads had already been constructed in the parcels of land, showing evidence of years of residence in the areas.

"Since the land is classified as timberland, it cannot be properly disposed. Residents cannot own lots so there is no security of tenure for them. That is why the land has to be converted into alienable and disposable land first before it can be disposed," Escudero explained.

"This will legitimize the claims of the local residents, whose families have in the area for the last 30 years," he added.

Representatives Francisco Matugas and Guillermo Romarate, Jr. who introduced HB 1719, said timberland will be retained in 20-meter strips of land on both sides along rivers and creeks for the protection of the stream bank. They said the strips of land will be planted with trees by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the city government of Surigao.

Meanwhile, the Senate approved 29 bills creating new Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) and Municipal Courts Nationwide (MTCs) and Municipal Trial Court in cities (MTCCs).

Escudero, who also chairs the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said the creation of the 29 courts are necessary to reduce the backlog of cases in the country.

"As agreed upon by Congress and the Supreme Court of trying to put a cap on the case load of not more than 300 cases per RTC and not more than 500 cases per MTC, the creation of these courts are necessary in order to efficiently and effectively deliver justice in the 29 provinces and cities," Escudero said.

Under the proposed legislation, 22 MTCs will be created in Quzon City; 12 MTCs in Pasig City; six MTCs in Makati City; one RTC in Midsayap, North Cotabato; four RTCs in General Santos, South Cotabato; one RTC in Digos, Davao del Sur; one RTC in Ormoc, Leyte; two RTCs in Toledo, Cebu; one MTCC and seven RTCs in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu; six MTCCs and one RTC in Cebu City; one RTC in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental; two RTCs in Dumangas, Iloilo; three RTCs in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; five RTCs in Morong, Rizal; one RTC in Binangonan, Rizal; two RTCs in Gumaca, Quezon; one RTC in Siniloan, Laguna; one RTC in Rosario, Batangas; four RTCs in Olongapo, Zambales; three RTCs in Malolos, Bulacan; one RTC in Urdaneta, Pangasinan; one MTC in Taytay, Rizal; four MTCS in Las Pinas City; one RTC in Cotabato, Maguindanao; two RTCs in Polomok, South Cotabato; one RTC in Panabo, Davao del Norte; two RTCs in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay; two RTCs in Argao, Cebu and one RTC in Talibon, Bohol. (PILAR MACROHON, PRIB)

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