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Tourists enjoy the Boracay experience while businessmen wait a little before they can own a piece of the paradise island. (Photo by Tara Yap)

Tourists enjoy the Boracay experience while businessmen wait a little before they can own a piece of the paradise island. (Photo by Tara Yap)

SC: Bora businessmen can’t apply for land titles

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Supreme Court has ruled that business establishments in Boracay Island cannot yet apply for titles to the lots on which their investments stand.

In a 35-page decision, the SC ruled that Boracay remains unclassified land of the public domain and is considered public forest under Presidential Decree No. 705 (Revised Forestry Code).

The SC ruling means that the government is still the owner of Boracay despite Proclamation No. 1801 declaring the island resort a public forested land.

The SC case stemmed from two consolidated cases assailing the Court of Appeals decision which affirmed the ruling of the Regional Trial Court in Kalibo, Aklan.

The Kalibo RTC earlier granted the petition for declaratory relief filed by lot claimants Mayor Jose Yap and several others and ordering the survey of Boracay for titling purposes.

The second petition sought the prohibition, mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation No. 1064 issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo classifying Boracay into reserved forest and agricultural land.

The high tribunal said there must be “a positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable” before parcels of Boracay Island can be owned by private individuals.

“In keeping with the presumption of State ownership, the Court has time and again emphasized that there must be a positive act of the government such as an official proclamation, declassifying inalienable public land into disposable land for agricultural or other purposes,” the SC said.

The SC added that Proclamation 1801 merely declared the island resort and other islands as tourist zone or marine reserve.

“The whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale behind the declaration of Boracay Island, together with other islands, caves and peninsulas in the Philippines, as a tourist zone and marine reserve to be administered by the PTA (Philippine Tourism Authority) – to ensure the concentrated efforts of the public and private sectors in the development of the areas’ tourism potential with due regard for ecological balance in the marine environment. Simply put, the proclamation is aimed at administering the islands for tourism and ecological purposes. It does not address the areas’ alienability.”

Also, the SC pointed out that Proclamation No. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island, but 64 other islands, coves, and peninsulas in the Philippines, “such as Fortune and Verde Islands in Batangas, Port Galera in Oriental Mindoro, Panglao and Balicasag Islands in Bohol, Coron Island, Puerto Princesa and surrounding areas in Palawan, Camiguin Island in Cagayan de Oro, and Misamis Oriental, to name a few.”

“If the designation of Boracay Island as tourist zone makes it alienable and disposable by virtue of Proclamation No. 1801, all the other areas mentioned would likewise be declared wide open for private disposition. That could not have been, and is clearly beyond, the intent of the proclamation.”

HOPE LINGERS

But Boracay businessmen still have a window of opportunity to own the lots on which their establishments stand.

“All is not lost, however, for private claimants. While they may not be eligible to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, this does not denote their automatic ouster from the residential, commercial and other areas they possess now classified as agricultural. Neither will this mean the loss of their substantial investments on their occupied alienable lands. Lack of title does not mean lack of right to possess,” the SC said.

The high tribunal added: “Lawful possession may claim good faith as builders of improvements.

“They can take steps to preserve or protect their possession. For another, they may look into other modes of applying for original registration of title.”

Another mode where businessmen can finally own a piece of the island resort is by congressional act.

“Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to acquire title to their occupied lots or to exempt them from certain requirements under the present land laws. There is one such bill now pending in the House of Representatives. Whether that bill or a similar bill will become a law is for Congress to decide.”

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

GOVERNOR Niel Tupas Sr. has ordered the suspension of the contract and re-bidding of the purchase of an anesthesia machine for the Calinog District Hospital.

 

This, after it was found out that Joemar Trading, the winning bidder of the transaction, sold a second-hand demonstration unit of GE anesthesia machine worth P2.3 million.

 

The controversy came into open after Aljon Jamandron Jr., regional sales manager of Health Solutions Inc., sent a letter to Tupas complaining about the transaction.

 

Health Solutions, the exclusive distributor of GE medical equipment, lost to Joemar Trading in the February 12, 2008 bidding for the anesthesia machine.

 

The losing bibber pegged the machine’s price at P2.398 million while Joemar’s bid was P2.358 million, a difference of P40,000.

 

There were six bidders who joined the prequalification phase but only Joemar and Health Solutions satisfied the requirements of the Bids and Awards Committee.

 

In his letter, Jamandron informed Tupas that the GE Datex-Ohmeda anesthesia machine (serial number AMXLOO990) Joemar delivered to the Calinog hospital was the demonstration unit Health Solutions used in Pampanga.

 

The demonstration unit was later sold to a certain Dr. Rodolfo Gutierrez in a Pampanga hospital.

 

Jamandron said the demonstration anesthesia machine cannot be transferred sans  clearance from their company’s GE Healthcare-trained biomedical engineers.

 

The Health Solutions executive warned that GE will not honor the warranty of the second-hand machine delivered to Calinog.

 

Tupas said he has ordered the Provincial Treasurer’s Office to hold the payment to Joemar Trading in the light of Health Solutions’ claims.

 

The governor also ordered a re-bidding of the equipment even as the Provincial Legal Office (PLO) investigates Jamandron’s letter.

 

INTERLOCKING OWNERSHIP?

 

Based on its bid documents, Joemar Trading holds office in Mandalagan Street, Bacolod City.

 

But Health Solutions claimed that their competitor is owned by a certain Connie Del Castillo, who also owns CDC Pharmacy.

 

Interestingly, CDC was a bidder for the P1.3-million autoclave sterilizer purchased by the Don Valerio Palmares District Hospital in Passi City, Iloilo which has been questioned by the Commission on Audit (COA).

 

The other bidder, Pacific Trade House (PTH), won the January 22 bidding for the sterilizer machine sans a valid business permit.

 

But after examining the bidding documents, the COA said PTH and CDC are owned by a certain Mercedes Sibug which violates government procurement rules.

 

The office address of PTH in Brgy. Cabugao, Pavia, Iloilo is also non-existent which is also a violation of the government procurement act.

 

The COA also found out that the sterilizing machine has no patent and locally manufactured (pasad). The audit agency also learned that the equipment malfunctioned in its initial operation.

 

A panel from the PLO headed by Atty. Jonel Alipao is investigating the anesthesia machine anomaly. Three Sangguniang Panlalawigan committees – good government and justice, health and accounts – are also looking into the transaction.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A SUSPECT in the murders of a village head, a court sheriff and a police officer fell in the hands of police intelligence operatives.

 

But Christopher Talamor of Tigbauan, Iloilo strongly denied having a hand in the deaths of Punong Barangay Jerry Colaja of Brgy. Quipot, Janiuay, Iloilo, Sheriff Johnny Tugado of Oton, Iloilo, and PO1 Frederick Capasao of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea).

 

Members of the Regional Intelligence Office (RIO) headed by Supt. Samuel Nacion arrested Talamor at Manuela Subdivision in the town of Leganes Tuesday afternoon.

 

RIO operatives also recovered a caliber .45 pistol inside Talamor’s pouch.

 

Talamor was arrested on the strength of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Danilo Galvez relative to the Colaja murder case last October 9, 2007.

 

RIO operatives claimed that Talamor was also involved in the killing of Tugado

 

While he strongly denied his participation in the three murder cases, Talamor said he has been planning to surrender to authorities after learning that he was being tagged in the three incidents.

 

Tugado was shot to death inside their house at Brgy. Cagbang, Oton July 12, 2007 while Capasao was riddled with bullets in front of their home in LaPaz, Iloilo City October 23, 2007.

 

Talamor said he works as a taxi driver for 10 years now and he has no pending criminal case.

 

But Marisol Capasao, wife of the slain police officer, insisted over Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo that Talamor drove the Hyundai Starex van used by her husband’s gunmen.

 

Marisol said she saw Talamor inside the van as the window in the driver’s seat was rolled down although she could not ascertain if the suspect shot her husband.

 

Citing her own sources and the cartographic sketch of the suspect, Marisol said she was able to confirm Talamor’s involvement in her husband’s death.

 

“He was there because I recognize his face and hair,” Marisol said.

 

The family of Tugado also visited the RIO office yesterday but they have yet to issue any statement on Talamor’s arrest.

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