Itogon Folk, Benguet Officials Hit DENR for Aiding PMA Land Claim
in Itogon and Benguet local officials have criticized the Land
Management Services of the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (LMS-DENR)-Cordillera for approving the survey plan of a
housing cooperative involving some officials and employees of the
Philippine Military Academy (PMA) over a portion of land in Itogon
despite overlapping land claims over the area.
BY KIM QUITASOL
Posted by Bulatlat
Benguet – Affected residents in Itogon and Benguet local officials have
criticized the Land Management Services of the Department of Environment
and Natural Resources (LMS-DENR)-Cordillera for approving the survey
plan of a housing cooperative involving some officials and employees of
the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) over a portion of land in Itogon
despite overlapping land claims over the area.
Support Group (HSG)-PMA Housing Cooperative applied for the
reclassification of a 30-hectare land between Barangay Gumatdang and
Ucab, Itogon, but was met with opposition from affected residents and
Ampagey-Bumidang, a resident who has been applying for the titling of
her land since 1975, said the LMS-DENR denied her applications on
grounds that the area was classified as a forest reserve. She added that
she has a tax declaration on the land dating decades ago.
“When we were
applying for titling, LMS-DENR simply cancelled our applications saying
that we can not apply for titling in the area because it is part of a
forest reservation,” Bumidang said in Ilocano. “They (LMS-DENR
officials) did not tell us that we should apply for reclassification
Lucy Ampagey, also
an affected claimant, questioned the procedures of the LMS-DENR, saying
it was unfair. She said the office could have at least consulted the
land claimants before approving the housing cooperative's survey plan.
Lulu Gimenez of the
Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera (Apit Tako or Alliance of
Peasants in the Cordillera)-Benguet also questioned the hasty
facilitation of the PMA housing cooperative’s application despite the
DENR’s knowledge of the overlapping claims and proclamations over the
contested area. She added that aside from the forest reservation and
mineral land proclamation the whole of Itogon is also a watershed
reservation for the San Roque dam, downstream in the Benguet-Pangasinan
“If DENR follows
the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS), being the agency
tasked to implement land laws, it should have not entertained PMA’s
(housing cooperative) application in the first place,” Gimenez
said that under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) the DENR
should have conducted consultations with affected indigenous peoples
whether or not the area is already awarded a certificate of ancestral
land title (CALT) or certificate of certificate of ancestral domain
title (CADT). “The IPRA does not say that IPs need to secure CALTs or
CADTs before their rights over their land be recognized,” she stressed.
Michael Tauli said the PMA housing cooperative's survey plan covers
portions of Sitio (sub-village) Tupdac, Peday and
Karayan Kanog, all of Barangay (village) Ucab and Sitio
Bisil in Brgy. Gumatdang. He
added that there are around 20 affected families in the contested area.
Tauli agreed with
Gimenez that the said parcel of land is also covered by several
proclamations that include forest reserve and mineral lands aside from
overlapping land claims that include several mining claims. He said
LMS-DENR should be aware of the status of the said area because it is
assisting the municipal task force created to resolve land tenure
problems in Itogon.
Aloysius Kato filed a resolution asking LMS-DENR to revoke the survey
plan of the PMA housing cooperative.
Kato stressed that
the approval of the PMA housing cooperative's survey plan reveals the
inconsistencies of the LMS-DENR. “Why did they (LMS-DENR) not give the
residents the same assistance they gave the HSG-PMA housing
cooperative?” he stressed.
Board Member Juan
Nazaro filed a related resolution condemning the alleged use of
uniformed PMA officers during the plotting of monuments for the survey
plan in the area.
Division-DENR chief Benjamin Ventura admitted that the HSG-PMA housing
cooperative survey plan was approved on Oct. 10, 2006 despite
discovering the overlapping claims earlier on Sept. 7, 2006.
Ventura said they
were just following proper procedures. He said the approval of the
survey plan is the first step towards reclassification.
officer-in-charge of the Reservation and Land Grant Section-LMS said
they stopped processing the housing cooperative's application after
receiving the Itogon municipal council resolution endorsing the
opposition of affected residents. She assured the affected residents and
Benguet officials that LMS-DENR would not continue processing the
HSG-PMA application until all isuues are resolved.
Capt. Alex Resinto,
a board member of the HSG-PMA, housing cooperative said that the
cooperative is a separate entity from the country's premier military
school. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat
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