Cebu Capitol wants island back

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Sunday, February 23, 2014


CEBU CITY -- A committee in the Cebu Provincial Board (PB) is recommending that the government get back control of an island, which is the same position the Cordova Municipal Government has taken.

The committee on provincial and municipal properties recommended the cancellation of all tax declarations covering Pilipog Island, also known as Shell Island, and its improvements.

The committee, headed by PB Member Grecilda Sanchez, recommended that Governor Hilario Davide III order the Provincial Assessor to cancel all the tax declarations in the possession of the Cebu Coliseum Complex Inc. (CCCI) and the Municipality of Cordova.

It remains unconfirmed whether Pilipog will be part of the proposed third bridge between mainland Cebu and Mactan Island, but Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy said that may be the case.

The PB committee’s recommendation is consistent with findings of the Provincial Legal Office.

Earlier, the Municipality of Cordova forwarded Resolution 003-13, which requested the Province to cancel Tax Declarations 19-0012-14739 and 19-0012-14740 in the name of CCCI, because it is a “baseless claim over Shell Island.”

On behalf of CCCI, lawyer Ivan Herrero objected in a letter dated November 13, 2013.

Education, tourism

Herrero pointed out that CCCI is the “bona fide lessee, being the successful bidder, of Shell Island after it was given up by Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. and has been occupying and using the same for education and tourism purposes.”

Previous reports identified Frederick Ong as the CCCI’s owner.

Since 1993, the island has been used as a training ground for the University of Cebu’s (UC) marine and nautical students.

Herrero also said that CCCI paid rental taxes but, since the government refused to accept it, these were consigned to the courts.

In July 2007, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office Chief Loreto Rivac said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has the authority to approve a lease contract or issue a permit for the use of land, based on Public Land Act 141.

DENR reportedly did not approve the application for the use of Pilipog, but the CCCI still paid their annual rent for two years, from September 2004 to September 2005.

They paid a total of P361,035.

Unclassified

In an interview, Mayor Sitoy said that the town has no record that CCCI applied for a building or business permit from the municipal hall.

He said the tax declaration that the Cordova holds was issued by the municipality during the time of former mayor Celedonio Sitoy.

According to the town’s resolution, Cordova’s Tax Declaration 190012-11969 took effect in 2009.

In Sitoy’s rebuttal to Herrero, he cited that a DENR report in September 2007 described Shell Island as an “unclassified public land.” This means it is not alienable and disposable and cannot be the subject of a miscellaneous lease application.

The provincial assessor asked the Provincial Legal Office for its opinion on the controversy, in a letter dated November 22, 2013.

In its letter to Alma Sibonga, officer-in-charge of the Cebu Provincial Assessor’s office, the Legal Office said the authority to lease granted to Shell Pilipinas, CCCI and any other person was erroneous.

Third bridge

That letter, dated January 13, 2014, was signed by Lawyer Marino Martinquilla, assistant provincial legal officer, and Lawyer Orvi Ortega, provincial legal officer.

The Provincial Legal Office also said that tax declarations issued to Pilipinas Shell, CCCI and the Municipality of Cordova have no legal basis and should be cancelled.

CCCI filed a motion for reconsideration on January 16.

Mayor Sitoy then filed an opposition to the motion.

The Provincial Legal Office has denied the motion for reconsideration.

In a separate interview, Sanchez said it is right that ownership of Pilipog should revert to the National Government.

Sanchez and fellow PB Member Arleigh Jay Sitoy, vice chair of the committee, said they cannot tell if the controversy has something to do with the preparations for a third bridge between Cebu and Mactan.

Mayor Sitoy, however, said: “Coliseum should move out especially ara mo-agi ang bridge (the third bridge will pass through that island),” Sitoy said. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 24, 2014.

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