SBMA warns illegal settlers

THE Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has appealed to farmers and indigenous Ayta tribesmen to stop encroaching on government-administered land and clearing forests and building illegal settlements within the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma said the intrusion and introduction of unauthorized settlements violate the law, as well as an agreement between the Subic agency and the Ayta tribe on the use and disposition of tribal ancestral lands within the freeport.

“Your efforts in clearing land and building shacks will simply be wasted if you’re activities are illegal. The authorities will simply dismantle what you build," Eisma said.

“There has long been an agreement on the ancestral domain here in the Subic Freeport, and we hope you would honor it to avoid any problem,” she added.

Eisma also said the SBMA may be constrained to file legal cases against illegal settlers to protect government interest over the properties.

The SBMA chief issued the warning following the discovery of two new illegal settlements at the Tipo area of the Subic Bay Freeport near Mount Sta. Rita Naval Link Station and the Subic Bay Expressway (SFEX).

Tipo, which is the location of the eight-kilometer SFEX and some industrial park projects, is a village within Hermosa, Bataan, and adjoins Dinalupihan town and Brgy. New Cabalan in Olongapo City.

A report from the SBMA Ecology Center said that in late February, inspectors discovered an undeveloped settlement near the SFEX tunnel, which consisted of some huts built in a newly cleared 500-square meter area.

The new clearing is located along the proposed rail alignment of the Subic-Clark Railway Project, said SBMA Ecology Center manager Amethya Dela Llana.

Dela Llana said after a meeting with the Kalayaan Ayta community that revealed the unauthorized clearing was made by a group of tribesmen from the Iram Resettlement area in Olongapo City, her office referred the matter on March 31 to Nestorio Pablo, the indigenous people’s representative to the Olongapo City council.

The notice sent to Pablo said the SBMA will demolish huts and confiscate felled bamboos, pieces of wood and other building materials found in the area.

Eisma said the demolition was carried out on April 13 by SBMA workers backed by officers from the SBMA Legal Department and the SBMA Law Enforcement Department.

She said the SBMA also served a “notice to vacate” to farmers who have started a new settlement at Lot 2 near Mount Sta. Rita. The notice was received on Monday by Wilson Villas, vice chairman of the group Filipino Farmers Center Internazionale (FFCI).

Eisma said while the Lot 2 settlement was still uninhabited, some semi-concrete structures put up by illegal settlers there point to intent for permanent occupancy.

The SBMA chief said the SBMA already filed in court a case against illegal settlers consisting of about 30 families affiliated with FFCI who have occupied Lot 12, an area at the boundary of the Subic Freeport and the Roosevelt National Park in Dinalupihan.

She said the SBMA gave the FFCI five days to remove their belongings at Lot 2 and leave the area.


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