P-Noy ‘snubs’ Tomas’ proposal

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014


ANY proposal to reclassify Bantayan Island into alienable and disposable land will not get the support of President Aquino.

Former Cebu City congressman and Liberal Party (LP) ally Tomas Osmeña learned this yesterday when he brought up the matter to the President.

Osmeña said he pushed for the reclassification of the entire island into alienable and disposable land to encourage investors to buy and develop properties there.

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It will boost tourism, he said, and will help local government units (LGUs) and residents rebuild following the damage caused by super typhoon Yolanda.

Importance of private investment

All 14,183 hectares of land in the towns of Bantayan, Sta. Fe and Madridejos are classified as protected area, specifically as a wilderness area under Presidential Proclamation 2151, signed in 1981 by then president Ferdinand Marcos.

“I just opened up his (Aquino) mind on this, but he doesn’t want to do it anyway… We can bring in a lot of private investments. We can give the people the right to own it but make them pay billions of pesos for the right to own it then you’ll have the money to redo the whole island,” Osmeña told Sun.Star Cebu.

“I said we can make it like Boracay and that’s when he put his resistance. He said ‘I don’t want to touch that…’ something to that effect,” he quoted the President as saying during a private brunch with LP allies at the governor’s office yesterday.

The reclassification of lands needs to be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Lower House already approved Rep. Benhur Salimbangon’s (Cebu, 4th district) bill on the reclassification of Bantayan. Its version in the Senate is still pending.

In an interview yesterday, Osmeña said private investment is crucial if the government wants Bantayan residents to recover immediately.

Reason

When asked why he brought up the matter, he said: “Because I thought that Bantayan needs a lot of help and government cannot spend for everything. We want to bring in the private sector and I know what the private sector wants. They want to develop that into a resort, but there are very few properties there that are titled, they’re all tax declaration.”

Osmeña said it was the first and last time he will discuss the proposal with the President so he will not come across as “kulit (nag).”

Before expressing his opinion on the matter, the former Cebu City mayor discussed it with some businessmen, including John Gokongwei, chairman emeritus of JG Summit, which owns Cebu Pacific Air.

He said that some businessmen support the idea.

“He (Gokongwei) said yeah, if they will do that, why not? They’ll buy the airport and put Cebu Pacific there, with exclusive rights, and he said ‘sure, sure’,” Osmeña said.

In a separate interview, Department of Environment and Natural Resources information officer Eddie Llamedo said that if Congress approves the bills on the reclassification, the island will have to be reassessed.

He said they will have to delineate which areas can be declared as alienable and disposable, and which areas will remain as strictly protected area, considering its natural and marine resources and biodiversity.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 26, 2014.

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