Senator Cynthia Villar vowed to help the residents of Bantayan Island in their quest for the island’s reclassification from a Protected Wilderness Area into an agricultural, commercial, industrial, and residential area.
Bantayan is among the 51 islands declared as Protected Wilderness Areas by Presidential Decree No. 2151 signed by the late President Ferdinand Marcos in 1981. The island’s its residents are now asking for its conversion.
Bantayan is among the 51 islands declared as Protected Wilderness Areas under Presidential Decree No. 2151. Locals are asking for its conversion into an agricultural, commercial, industrial, and residential area.
“This is the first time for me to hear of such case, but I will do my best to help the people of Bantayan,” Villar said during the Bantayan Island Stakeholders Forum at the Bantayan Multi-Purpose Center.
The seasoned legislator, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said she will find out the legality of converting Bantayan from a protected area to an alienable and disposable area.
“I will ask the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to study the area and then we can do committee hearings about this. Naiiba kasi ang kasong ito, kasi may mga nakatirang tao sa isla (This is rare case because the island is inhabited),” the veteran lawmaker said.
“I’m not even aware that a bill reclassifying Bantayan as alienable and disposable land has been filed,” the lady senator added.
Congressman Benhur Salimbangon of the 4th District of Cebu filed House Bill 2127 in 2016 which seeks the conversion of Bantayan Island to an agricultural, industrial, residential and commercial land from a protected wilderness area.
Villar said it is unfair for the residents in the island to not have their properties titled because of the declaration.
“It is unfair for the residents in the island to not have their properties titled because of the declaration.”
The stakeholders have asked the senator to grant their wish as their Christmas gift.
Villar, however, said it would be impossible to have the bill approved before the holidays considering that the 2019 national budget is the Senate’s current priority.
However, Bantayan Mayor Ian Escario remains hopeful that the island will eventually be reclassified by this Congress or by the next.