The House committee on natural resources chaired by Rep. Arnel Ty (Party-list, LPGMA) approved House Bill 5614 which seeks to declare the Kalayaan Island Group situated in the province of Palawan as alienable and disposable land for agricultural, residential and commercial purposes.
During the hearing, Rep. Roger Mercado (Lone District, Southern Leyte) sponsored the bill in behalf of its authors Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
In their explanatory note of the bill, Alvarez and Fariñas cited the urgent need to declare the Kalayaan Island Group as alienable and disposable to promote permanent dwelling and develop a viable source of livelihood for the residents therein. The declaration will also promote the growth of business opportunities and spur the development of trade and industry by attracting investors to the area, according to them.
Alvarez said the Kalayaan Island Group offers rich fishing grounds and contains significant oil and natural gas reserves. It is vital to the security and economic survival of the Philippines.
The Speaker further said the Municipality of Kalayaan is in the process of making new projects to promote tourism for the island group. It is inviting Filipino businessmen to invest in Kalayaan but investors are reluctant because the island group is inalienable and non-disposable for agricultural, residential and commercial purposes.
“Even residents who have been long tilling and developing the parcels of land within the Kalayaan Island Group cannot apply for title for their occupied area,” said Alvarez.
The Majority Floor Leader said Presidential Decree No. 1596, entitled “Declaring Certain Area Part of the Philippine Territory and Providing for Their Government and Administration,” constituted the Kalayaan Island Group as a distinct and separate municipality of the Province of Palawan, now known as the Municipality of Kalayaan.
According to Fariñas the Kalayaan Island Group is composed of islets and reefs with an aggregate land area of approximately 79 hectares: 1) Pagasa with 32.7 hectares; 2) Likas with 18.6 hectares; 3) Parda, 12.7 hectares; 4) Lawak, 7.9 hectares; 5) Kota, 6.45 hectares; 6) Patag, 0.57 hectare; 7) Parata, 0.44 hectare; 8) Ayungin Reef, 0 hectare; and 9) Rizal Reef, 0 hectare.
House Bill 5614 provides that the Kalayaan Island Group composed of Pagasa (Thitu), Likas, Parola, Lawak, Kota, Patag, Panata, Ayungin Reef, Balagtas Reef and Rizal Reef containing a total land area of 0.79 km² (0.31 sq. mi) constituting the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan, is hereby declared as alienable and disposable land for agricultural, residential, commercial and other productive purposes, subject to actual survey and delineation, and more particularly described in Presidential Decree No. 1596, entitled “Declaring Certain Area Part of the Philippine Territory and Providing For Their Government and Administration” as follows:
From a point [on the Philippine Treaty Limits] at latitude 7°40′ North and longitude 116°00′ East of Greenwich, thence due West along the parallel of 7°40′ N to its intersection with the meridian of longitude 112°10′ E, thence due north along the meridian of 112°10′ E to its intersection with the parallel of 9°00′ N, thence northeastward to the inter-section of the parallel of 12°00′ N with the meridian of longitude 114°30′ E, thence, due East along the parallel of 12°00′ N to its intersection with the meridian of 118’00’ E, thence, due South along the meridian of longitude 118°00′ E to its intersection with the parallel of 10°00′ N, thence Southwestwards to the point of beginning at 7°40′ N, latitude and 116° 00′ E longitude; including the sea-bed, sub-soil, continental margin and air space.
Within 90 days after the effectivity of the Act, the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources shall promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act.
During the hearing, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Salvador Melchor Mison Jr. cited the AFP development plans for the nine Kalayaan Group of Islands amounting to P11.6 billion.
These are 1) enhancement of the habitability of the islands ; 2) construction of a berthing space for Philippine Navy vessels and other vessels; 3) upgrading of the defense structures of the islands ;4) Improvement of existing facilities such as roads and air strip; and 5) provision of water and power facilities and communication equipment.