ILOILO CITY ? The Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed a presidential proclamation classifying more than half of Boracay Island as alienable and disposable and denying that occupants had acquired vested rights over the property.
In an en banc resolution penned by Associate Justice Ruben Reyes on two consolidated cases, the high court affirmed Proclamation No. 1064 issued by President Macapagal-Arroyo on May 22, 2006.
The proclamation classified 628.96 hectares or 60.94 percent of the 1,032-hectare island as alienable and disposable on the premise that the whole of Boracay is government property.
It also provides for a 15-meter buffer zone on each side of the centerline of roads and trails, which are reserved for right of way and which would form part of the area reserved for forestland protection purposes.
Land owners led by Orlando Sacay, owner of Waling-Waling resort, and Wilfredo Gelito of Willy?s Beach Club, earlier petitioned the high court to nullify the proclamation, claiming that it violates their ?prior vested rights? because they would be, in effect, bidding for their own properties.
But the Supreme Court said the proclamation did not violate the Constitution. ?It was within her (Ms Arroyo) authority to make such classification, subject to existing vested rights,? it ruled.
In the same decision, the tribunal reversed an earlier Court of Appeals ruling that upheld a decision of the Kalibo Regional Trial Court recognizing the right of land occupants to have their lots surveyed and titled, subject to existing laws.
The decision said the land occupants, even if they have stayed there for years and have infused investments, had not acquired vested rights because the island had not been categorized until 2006 when Proclamation 1064 was issued.
?The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants do not automatically give them a vested right in Boracay. Nor do these give them a right to apply for a title to the land they are presently occupying,? the Supreme Court said.
On the other hand, it clarified that the occupants of areas classified as agricultural could not be ejected automatically.
?Lack of title did not mean the lack of right to possess the property,? it added.