Villar urges DENR to be decisive: Relocate ‘illegal settlers’ in Sitio Kapihan | Inquirer News

Villar urges DENR to be decisive: Relocate ‘illegal settlers’ in Sitio Kapihan

/ 05:52 PM October 18, 2023

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Cynthia Villar on Wednesday called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to take a decisive stand and relocate “illegal settlers” in Sitio Kapihan.

Sitio Kapihan is located in Socorro town, Surigao del Norte. It is an enclave where members of the alleged religious cult Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc (SBSI) live.

“Don’t approach it like that. You seem to be very scared, you have no decisiveness,” Villar told DENR officials during the Senate subcommittee on finance’s hearing on the agency’s budget for 2024.


Villar said this after DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations in Mindanao Joselin Marcus Fragada said they have yet to decide on the resettlement of SBSI members, noting that they are implementing an “interagency approach” to address the issue.


Fragada said it is hard to immediately decide on the matter because more than 3,000 individuals will be affected by this decision.

“Wala naman silang choice eh. Kapag binigyan mo sila ng choice ay hindi susunod ‘yan. Illegal sila doon eh, illegal sila. Ang ating legislated protected area should be preserved,” Villar said later on.

(They do not have a choice. When you give them a choice, they won’t follow. They are illegally occupying the area; what they are doing is illegal. Our legislated protected area should be preserved.)

“[DENR has] to decide. Kailangan may mag-decide. Kung ako ‘iyon ay ililipat ko na kasi legislated protected area ‘yan at hindi dapat tinitirahan ng mga tao ‘yan,” Villar later told reporters in an ambush interview following the hearing.

(DENR has to decide. Someone needs to decide. If it were me, I would relocate them because that is a legislated protected area and those people should not live there.)

A  total of 3,350 SBSI members reside within the enclave, at least 1,017 of whom are children.


According to Fragada, of the 3,350, only 174 are “tenured migrants,” meaning allowed to live in Sitio Kapihan, but to date, out of the 174, only one individual remains in the area.

Meanwhile, Christie Reyes, Regional Director of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DSHUD), said they have identified 18 possible housing sites for SBSI members.

But she said 15 of these are “zoned” as agricultural, while three are residential.

To recall, the DENR suspended its Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement with the alleged religious cult SBSI in September 2023.


DENR suspends protected land agreement deal with SBSI

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DENR: Humanitarian reasons delay scrapping land pact with ‘Socorro cult’

TAGS: Barangay Socorro, DENR, Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc., Villar

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