MANILA, Philippines — Environment Secretary Ramon Paje is looking into reports that a hill inside a beach-front property titled to the Ati tribe in Boracay was being leveled by the other claimants.
“We have not issued any permit. We’re not authorizing any leveling in Boracay,” Paje said in an interview, pointing out that forest lands in the famed island-resort have been declared “no-build zones.”
Paje said he would instruct regional director Julian Amador to verify reports by the civil society group Katarungan that the hill inside the 2.1-hectare property in Barangay Manoc-manoc, Malay, titled to the Atis was being flattened on the orders of the other claimants.
If Amador confirmed this was a forest land, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources could intervene by issuing a “cease and desist” order, and file charges against the developers, Paje said.
“If it’s a forest land, we can run after them,” he said.
Otherwise, if this was an alienable and disposable land, this would be a violation of the Atis’ rights, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) could take cognizance of this, he added.
Katarungan lamented that while the Atis occupied a portion of the property Tuesday last week, the hill was being flattened by one of three other claimants, sending pictures as proof.
“Does this have a permit from the DENR? Is there a free and prior informed consent from the NCIP?” said Bong Gonzales of Katarungan. He said the 2.1-hectare property was part of an 18-hectare public and forest land on the island.
The NCIP backed the Atis’ occupation of their ancestral land and rallied the locals and tourists to help them reclaim a portion of their “lost paradise.” It said the Atis could occupy the land because they had been issued the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) in August 2010.
The commission is set to issue on Wednesday the writ of possession formally turning over the land to the Atis.
Atis chieftain Delsa Justo and tribe members occupied the land on the southern end of the 1,032-hectare Boracay Island Tuesday last week. The claimants, citing prior possession of the land, had questioned the NCIP’s awarding of the title to the Atis before a local court in Kalibo, Aklan, and sought a cancellation. This has delayed the Atis’ installation in their land.