Awarding of GenSan airport land to B’laan family questioned

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/29 June) — The management of the airport here has declared they would question in court the decision of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) awarding 87 hectares of the 599-hectare property to ancestral land claimants belonging to the B’laan tribe.

Nathaniel Y. Nazareno, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines local chief, described as anomalous NCIP’s decision awarding Certificate of Ancestral Land Title to the Bansalao-Banisil family of the B’laan tribe.

“I have already submitted to our national office (documents) for the filing of a case questioning NCIP’s decision. We would like to seek a TRO (temporary restraining order),” Nazareno told MindaNews inside the sprawling airport.

In a letter dated May 21, a copy of which was obtained by MindaNews, Jeanne Anne M. Zolio, NCIP regional director, formally informed Nazareno’s office of the awarding of CALT located in Sitio Uhaw, Barangay Fatima.

Zoilo could not be contacted at her office on Tuesday but Macapantao R. Manamba, NCIP regional administrative officer, urged the airport management to lodge a complaint before the commission en banc if they think the process was anomalous.

Nazareno noted that the airport area is covered by Presidential Proclamation 219 issued on July 13, 1993.
Unless a new presidential proclamation is issued, PP 219 remains the legal instrument covering the original area, he asserted.

“NCIP is a subordinate office of the Office of the President and as such, it has no power to supersede PP 219 unless it is amended by another presidential proclamation,” he argued.

The airport official said he personally does not object to the tribe’s ancestral domain claim but that it should not have been processed at all because the area is already covered by a presidential proclamation recognizing it as an international airport reservation.

He further argued that awarding the area to a claimant requires a congressional act that would reclassify it as alienable and disposal lands for the formal issuance of an original certificate of title from the Registry of Deeds.

But Nazareno assured the NCIP’s decision would not affect airport operations.

The airport is crucial to the economic growth of the city, the gateway to the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.

It enables fresh tuna harvests unloaded in the city, dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” to reach other parts of the globe daily.

Flights in and out of the city to Manila have recently increased to six times daily.

The airport opened on July 6, 1996, with the construction mostly funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

It has a runway measuring 3,221 by 45 meters which can handle wide-bodied jets.

The awarded area virtually straddles the front portion of the city airport, which is currently idle but can be utilized for airport expansion projects in the future, Nazareno said.

He added the runway and the passenger terminal are not covered by the area awarded to the claimants through CALT No. R12-GSC-0110-000250 issued last January 28. (MindaNews)