Solon seeks House probe on 'unabated land grabbing' in Hundred Islands PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 10:12

BOLINAO, Pangasinan --  Rep. Jesus Celeste of the First District of Pangasinan, said he will seek for a Congressional investigation into what he claimed as "unabated land grabbing in the Hundred Islands National Park (HINP)" off Alaminos City.

In a press conference here on Saturday, Celeste said the congressional probe would be separate from the investigation being initiated by the provincial government of Pangasinan, through the Sangguniang Panlalawigan which first took note of large hectares of fishpond lands that sprouted in the Hundred Islands.

Celeste, former three-term mayor of Bolinao, was disturbed by report emanating from the provincial government that several structures that looked like fishpond dikes are now teeming in the Hundred Islands, which defaced its natural environment and proved to be offensive to the taste of tourists frequenting the place.

In that press conference were officers of the Bolo Development Cooperative (Bolodeco) who admitted maintaining a 40-hectare fishpond in the Hundred Islands but this is covered by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) based on a Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 1993 during the them of President Fidel V. Ramos.

Bolodeco officials, including chairman Wilfredo Flores, chairman, director Joaquin Morga and past president Jose Carambas Jr. claimed the cooperative now owns the 40-hectare fishpond but it has ceased operations since 2008 due to lack of capital and plans to lease the area to interested persons.

They said Boledeco, which has 357 members, had been operating fishponds in the Hundred Islands since 1978 or during the Martial Law years, just few years before the provincial government, when Aguedo Agbayani was still the governor, turned over the management and supervision of the Hundred Islands to the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA).

The city government of Alaminos, headed by Mayor Hernani Braganza, took over the management and supervision of the Hundred Islands from PTA in 2005 by virtue of an executive order signed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The Alaminos city government, in a press statement, mentioned some cases against Bolodeco and different individuals initiated by different government agencies which have not yet been resolved by the courts to date.

These agencies, it was learned, were still puzzled on how come Bolodeco was awarded a title to its 40-hectare fishpond since it violates the principle that “parks are not beyond the commerce of man”.

Rep. Celeste cited a list showing others who have established acres of acres of fishponds within the Hundred Islands.

These include one Salvador Braganza, 50 hectares; Tomas Braganza, 23 hectares; Lourdes Braganza Garcia, 38 hectares; Juan Casipit, eight hectares; Norma Sison Buendia, six hectares; Gabriel Braganza, Hilario Redito, Prudencio Legaspi and a certain Arzadon.

Morga said all the fishpond owners there had long been in the area, except for Salvador Braganza who established his 50-hectare fishpond just two years ago.

On the other hand, Morga claimed that the eight-hectare fishpond of Casipit was leased by him to some Taiwanese investors.

Celeste told newsmen he would further ask the House committees on Tourism and Environment to invite concerned government officials to shed light on why large parts of the Hundred Islands have now been parceled out to different individuals and groups and have not stopped them.

Celeste said because of unabated land grabbing in the Hundred Islands, he is in favor of the shift in the administration and supervision of the Hundred Islands from the city government of Alaminos to the province, an act that may likely fuel the feud between Governor Amado Espino Jr. and Braganza.

Espino and Braganza are not in good terms and the latter accused the former of making the 'noise" over the Hundred Islands due to politics.

Celeste, an ally of Espino, said the provincial government was more in a position to manage and administer the Hundred Islands than the city of Alaminos.