By Hannah Torregoza
Detained Senator Leila de Lima is now urging the Senate to investigate allegations of land-grabbing activities in Boracay island allegedly committed by some commercial developers in disregard of indigenous peoples’ (IPs) right to their ancestral land.
De Lima, in filing Senate Resolution No. 902, called on her colleagues to launch a Senate probe on the matter to ensure that rehabilitation efforts during the island’s closure would not prejudice the pending claims of the IPs.
De Lima pointed out that long before Boracay became a revenue-generating tourist attraction, it has been home to the island’s locals and IPs.
“Thus, conservation efforts should take into utmost consideration how the inhabitants will be affected,” De Lima stressed.
“Many residents and small business owners fear that their lands will be taken by government because of numerous land disputes among multiple claimants, even before the shutdown this year,” she added.
De Lima recalled that when Duterte hastily approved the total closure of the popular tourist destination effective Apr. 26, 2018, it was done without any proper consultation from the stakeholders.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has identified 842 illegal structures in forest areas and wetlands as part of its rehabilitation program and has issued 341 notices to occupants to leave and be forcibly removed.
But the senator said a reliable source of hers claimed that the forestland for conservation in Manoc-Manoc in Boracay, which was part of the ancestral domain claimed by the Ati tribe, would not be forfeited by the State for actual conservation but for conversion into houses, condominiums and golf courses.
De Lima warned this would defeat the purpose of the Executive decision to close the island, which is to implement rehabilitation plans due to the island’s health concerns.
Thus, de Lima said, “no commercial development should have been implemented in Boracay during this six-month period.”