To pave way for land titling in Bantayan: House removes wilderness tag

To pave way for land titling in Bantayan: House removes wilderness tag

CEBU, Philippines — The House of Representatives has approved a bill removing Bantayan Island in Cebu from the wilderness protected zone category.

This would allow residents in the island, located north of mainland Cebu, to have their lands titled.

A separate bill in the Senate is needed, however, and the author in the lower house, Cebu Fourth District Rep. Janice Salimbangon, said they are counting on Senator Cynthia Villar for support. Villar heads the Senate’s committee on environment.

During a visit in Bantayan Island a year ago, Villar told residents there she will help in having the island reclassified.

It was Proclamation 2151 of former president Ferdinand Marcos that classified the whole Bantayan Island as a wilderness area. The classification disallowed land titling.

This, however, became a stumbling block during relief efforts in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 because international organizations were reluctant to fund reconstruction of houses on lands that do not have titles.

Bantayan Island is composed of the municipalities of Santa Fe, Bantayan, and Madridejos.

House Bill No. 4951, which reclassified Bantayan Island, was approved on November 4, 2019 upon the recommendation of the House Committee on Natural Resources. It was transmitted to the Senate the following day.

The bill substituted House Bill No. 3861, which Salimbangon also authored, “rationalizing the management of the natural resources, located in the municipalities of Bantayan, Madridejos, and Sta. Fe, all in the Province of Cebu, amending for the purpose Presidential Proclamation No. 2151, declaring certain islands and/or parts of the country as wilderness areas”.

Salimbangon said rationalizing the management of certain lands in Bantayan Island from wilderness to agricultural, commercial, residential, industrial, and for other similar productive purposes must be the government’s initiative to answer to the needs of the times.

For ecological and environmental protection considerations, House Bill No. 4951 provides that the band of dry land within the shoreline from the point where the sea water reaches its highest point during high tide up to 20 meters landward, shall remain as a protected area, under the land classification of national park, as provided for in the Constitution.

The islands of Sillon, Pananganlan Gamay, Pananganlan Dako, Botong Diot, Botong Dako, Sagasa, Sulagon Dako, Sulagon Gamay, Biyagayag Dako, Biyagayag Gamay, Mambacayao Dako, Mambacayao Gamay, and any other unnamed islands or islets located within the territorial boundaries of the municipalities shall likewise remain as protected areas pursuant to the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992.

Salimbangon’s husband, former Cebu representative Benhur Salimbangon, filed a similar bill that reached the third and final reading in the 17th Congress. It was submitted to the Senate on August 2, 2018 but the process was stalled reportedly due to lack of material time.

Bantayan Island has a land area of approximately 13,313 hectares. Residents there rely on fishing, poultry, and tourism.

Salimbangon said that while tourism has become the major economic contributor in the island, demands for transportation and accommodation complete with water, electricity, and communication facilities must be met.

“The different infrastructure thereon must therefore be developed,” she said.

To do so, Salimbangon said the government must take the necessary step aggressively to attract private individuals and entities willing to pour investments to provide the services needed.

Reclassifying the island will pave the way for the establishment of different infrastructure and services that would cater the needs of the island.

“Considering the magnificence and the rich local heritage of the island, the government’s affirmative stance in reclassifying these areas will definitely contribute much to the success of the tourism industry not only in the island of Bantayan but to the entire country as well. Economic development will definitely soar which will pave to the creation of significant number of jobs,” Salimbangon explained. (FREEMAN)


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