Councilor wants suspension of land titling in GenSan lifted

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/03 February) – A city official is pushing for the immediate lifting of a suspension order issued by the Land Registration Authority (LRA) over the titling of public lands within the city.

City Councilor Rosalita Nunez has filed a resolution urging the LRA to recall the “total suspension” order on land titling that it issued in July 2013 in the wake of an investigation over alleged irregularities in the processing of land titles involving declared public lands in the area.

She said the move aims to facilitate the processing of titles for various alienable and disposable lands in the city that are already considered as residential areas.

The official specifically cited areas that were not covered by the investigation and subject to claims by local residents.

Nunez said some of these areas are already eligible for titling as provided for in Republic Act 10023 or the “Act Authorizing the Issuance of Free Patents to Residential Lands.”

“The suspension affected areas outside of the focus of investigation and dampened the hopes of local residents who were pushing for the titling of their claimed and acquired residential lots,” she said.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) initially issued a memorandum on July 18, 2013, directing an investigation into cases of alleged illegal titling of lands in South Cotabato, Sarangani and in this city.

The DENR, through Undersecretary Analiza Rebuelta-Teh, directed the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Region 12 to secure copies of titles included in the alleged illegal land titling cases.

The agency also created a fact-finding team to investigate the numerous complaints of anomalous titling of public lands in the area, specifically in parts of this city.

As a result, DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations Demetrio Ignacio issued another memorandum on July 22, 2013 for the “suspension of issuance of survey authority, acceptance and processing of all public land applications and issuance of patents over lands located in the Provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani.”

But Nunez said the CENRO in Buayan district here had recommended that the suspension order should be reassessed to limit its coverage to those areas that are under investigation.

The CENRO’s recommendation was included in the completed staff work that it submitted to the DENR in connection with the suspension order that it cited as “sweeping.”

“It recommended that the suspension should only cover areas that under investigation, specifically the grazing agreements that were affected by the titling anomalies,” she said.

She said the recall recommendation covered other lands under the administrative jurisdiction of the CENRO district office or areas within this city and the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani.

The city government earlier asked the DENR and other government agencies to investigate the rampant illegal titling of public lands in the area, including those covered by Forest Land Grazing Lease Agreements and Integrated Forest Plantation Management Agreements (IFPMA).

Last year, the Registry of Deeds here uncovered the alleged illegal titling of around 800 hectares of land near the city international airport that was eventually sold to a Manila-based businessman.

The area is covered by an IFPMA forged with the government by the Alsons Development and Investment Corp.

Several years ago, a local clan was able to secure a Certificate of Ancestral Land Title over 87 hectares of the 599-hectare city airport here that it was claiming.

City officials called the issuance of the title as anomalous and contested it before the courts. (MindaNews)