Speech: Reclaiming the People's Right to a Balanced and Healthful Ecology (Conclusion)

Manila Bulletin, October 23, 2013 | Go to article overview

Speech: Reclaiming the People's Right to a Balanced and Healthful Ecology (Conclusion)


To go back to PEA-AMARI, Atty. Chavez then filed a Petition for Mandamus where he prayed that PEA publicly disclose the terms of any renegotiation of the JVA; assailed the sale to AMARI of lands of the public domain as a blatant violation of Section 3, Article XII, of the Constitution, prohibiting the sale of alienable lands of the public domain to private corporations. He also asserted that he seeks to enjoin the loss of billions of pesos in properties of the State that are of public domain. In their haste to get around the decision in Chavez vs PEA-AMARI, which disallowed the transfer of ownership of reclaimed lands to private corporate interests, a consultant was hired with funds from the USAID. A document was submitted to NEDA which points to an old law, RA 1899, to justify reclamation by local governments. RA 1899 says: SECTION 4. All lands reclaimed as herein provided, except such as may be necessary for wharves, piers and embankments, roads, parks, and other public improvements, may be sold or leased under such rules and regulations as the municipality or chartered city may prescribe. If you notice here, the "reclaimed land" is for public uses only! And therefore cannot be sold privately. However, the management of such lands can be done with the private sector through lease or joint venture as provided for under the LGC, being the LGUs as corporate entity. They then rushed to have local governments stand in as proponents, and as a result, many aspects were overlooked. The first is that even after reclamation by private entities using the local governments as proponents, the lands will STILL not be available for private development. Chavez vs PEA-AMARI will still prevail as to ownership of reclaimed lands, as lands of the public domain. Any land reclamation, regardless of who initiates it (i.e. PRA, private sector, LGU) is considered "unclassified public land" and, therefore, part of the public domain, which is now under the DENR. This was conveyed to us by Former DENR Undersecretary Elmer Mercado. In fact, the Supreme Court also declared in the Chavez case that the prohibition against private ownership of alienable lands of the public domain "was intended to diffuse equitably the ownership of alienable lands of the public domain among Filipinos, now numbering over 80 million strong." Private corporate reclamations, whether done through the PRA or local governments, would have to show that this objective is reached. Experience has shown that the road to reclamation is littered with broken promises, non-inclusive development and the perpetuation of a consumerist and take-all-you-can development model that is not well suited to a world with a changing climate with an ever increasing population. The way to a developed economy is to make public lands productive and benefit a much broader base among the citizenry. …

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