DENR freezes land titling in forest lands, protected areas
To curb the encroachment of human population and disruptive economic activities into forest lands, the Department of Environment declared on Monday that no land titles would be given to areas that overlapped with or were included in proposed protected areas.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said he would suspend activities related to land titling in areas that have become part of planned protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).
Paje explained that the move would “ease environmental pressure caused by human settlements on areas that naturally maintain ecological processes, provide life support systems, and preserve biodiversity.”
The suspended activities will cover the survey and processing of all public land applications (PLAs) for titling purposes.
The DENR will also halt the processing of applications for lease, license or permit of any project or activity within the identified area, as well as the acceptance of new applications “except for projects that are compatible with the objectives of the NIPAS.”
In cases, however, where the Office of the President decides to disapprove the proposed proclamation, the DENR shall lift the suspension on these activities.
Environment officials said the porous borders of the country’s forest lands and protected areas have led to the conversions of these lands into plantations and human settlements, which have led to deforestation and the disruption of wildlife in these areas.
Under the law, protected areas are portions of land and water with unique physical and biological significance, managed to enhance biodiversity and protected against destructive human exploitation.
Protected areas are categorized as nature or resource reserves; natural parks, monuments, or biotic areas; wildlife sanctuaries; protected land or seascapes; or as established by law, conventions or international agreements.
Data from the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of DENR indicate that there are presently 239 protected areas included in the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), covering a total area of 5.4 million hectares.
Of the total, 111 have already been officially as such, encompassing a total area of 3.5 million hectares.
Of these declared PAs, 82 are terrestrial PAs, with a total area of 2.1 million hectares, of which 374,908.5 hectares are within alienable and disposable lands, according to Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau Director Mundita Lim.