Change in status gets Garcia’s nod

ALTHOUGH moves to scrap Camotes Islands’ forest reserve status continue, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said upholding environmental sustainability should remain a paramount concern.

The governor is set to visit Camotes for several activities, including a site inspection of a proposed airport in San Francisco town, from Nov. 25 to 27, 2019.

“Right now, communities in Camotes can’t actively engage in entrepreneurial activities due to its classification,” Garcia said on Friday, Nov. 22.

On Sept. 23, 2019, Rep. Duke Frasco (Cebu, 5th district) filed a draft legislation that seeks to lift the Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserves (MSFR) declaration for the islands of Poro, Pacijan and Ponson to convert the dry lands portion to alienable and disposable lands.

The municipalities of San Francisco, Tudela, Poro and Pilar are on these islands.

The MSFR declaration for several provinces was made by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos through Presidential Proclamation 2152 on Dec. 29, 1981.

Frasco, the governor’s son-in-law, said House Bill 4785 aims to boost the economy of the four northern towns.

The proposed bill, though, excludes the stretch of mangrove swamp connecting the towns of San Francisco and Poro from the alienable and disposable classification Frasco is seeking.

For the governor, making lots in Camotes alienable and disposable will open gates to interested investors as well as business opportunities for islanders.

“It’s a long-held wish by communities living in Camotes. But we have to be mindful that as we push for development, it should be done in an environmentally sound and sustainable manner,” Garcia said. RTF