Settlers told to stop building structures

Posted on April 17, 2011


By Candeze R. Mongaya, Reporter
Settlers were told to stop building illegal structures within a 505-hectare forested area in the hinterland barangays of Tabunan and Taptap in Cebu City.

The cease-and-desist order was issued yesterday by Regional Executive Director Maximo Dichoso of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7).

He met with retired police general Tiburcio “Tiboy” Fusilero who reported that more claimants were entering the protected watershed to broker the sale of lots, cut trees and build structures.

Fusilero said there were only 12 original claimants in the area when the 505-hectare site was declared a protected area in the 1990s.

But today, more than 25 claimants inhabit the area based on a 2009-2010 survey conducted by the Cebu City government. Unregulated activities in the area like tree cutting pose harm to the forest’s biodiversity and the watershed as a source of water supply.

The 505 hectares was placed under Fusilero’s stewardship by the DENR in 2002 as part of the Adopt a Mountain program. While his group’s intensive tree planting activities have regreened the area, Fusilero has also clashed with settlers and farmer activist groups, who accuse him of depriving them of their livelihood.

The area is part of the Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL) under the supervision of the DENR.

Although the land is not open to private sale and cannot be titled, the uplands continue to be the subject of real estate speculation and illegal sale of “rights” based on tax declarations.

Dichoso tasked Fusilero’s personnel and the DENR Forest Resources Development Division to distribute copes of the cease-and-desist order.

Dichoso also suggested a dialogue “as soon as possible” with the claimants and property brokers to check their documentary proofs of ownership.

“If it would be proven that their structures are illegal, the property will be demolished and they will be penalized,” said the DENR officials.

Fusilero said he reported the illegal sale of lots by claimants to the DENR-7 before but no action was taken on it.

“With the cease-and-desist order, the ‘squatters’ would lessen,” Fusilero said.

A special task force is also being planned for the CCPL, independent from the Protected Area Superintendent’s Office (PASO). The task force will conduct regular monitoring on the protected area.

The CCPL established in Republic Act No. 9486 covers five watersheds: Buhisan, Mananga, Kotkot-Lusaran, Sudlon National Park, and the Central Cebu National Park.

These watersheds are located in the cities of Cebu, Talisay, Toledo and Danao and in the towns of Minglanilla, Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela and Balamban in Cebu province. Any purchase, mortgage and lease of any portion of the CCPL is prohibited.

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