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The NNNP occupancy - 3 cols


The Protected Area Management Board of the Northern Negros Natural Park will meet on Thursday on the controversial construction of private vacation houses and resorts inside the protected area, specifically in Salvador Benedicto town, by some prominent individuals from Bacolod City and other parts of Negros Occidental. 

The PAMB is authorized to decide on the planning, peripheral protection, and general administration of the PA, as provided in the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992, or Republic Act 7586.

The NNNP was declared as a PA by Presidential Proclamation No. 895 issued on Aug. 15, 2008. The PAMB is composed of representatives from local government units covering the PA, concerned non-government and people’s organizations, Indigenous People and other government agencies, with the Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator as ex-oficio member.

The Regional Executive Director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Region VI acts as the chairperson. In the case of NNNP, the governor co-chairs with the RED in the PAMB.

Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Andre Untal recently served cease-and-desist orders to 40 individuals who have built vacation houses and other structures inside the NNNP.  The NIPAS Act requires a prior permit for any construction or maintenance of any structure and fence or enclosure in the PA. The PAMB has so far, not issued any permit to all the recipients of the CDOs.

To claim it is not an issue to construct new structures in NNNP, given that there are already existing houses, government buildings and other infrastructures inside it, is not an excuse not to secure a permit from the PAMB. It should be noted that the existing ones are still subject to evaluation as to their conformity to the biodiversity conservation requirements of NNNP and to its management plan, which is still being deliberated on, and therefore any construction should not be allowed for the meantime.

It is also important to consider that occupancy in NNNP has certain restrictions and limitations. In due recognition that most, if not all, of our protected areas in the Philippines have occupants, the NIPAS has evolved responding to this reality by granting land tenure security to the so called tenured migrants. There are several criteria identified to become tenured migrants in the PA. They must have been in the area five years before its designation as a component of the NIPAS,  continuously occupied the PA and are solely dependent on it for livelihood. These tenured migrants should be organized to avail a community-based land tenure and not on individual basis.

The persons identified to have recently constructed structures in NNNP are not tenured migrants, and therefore they are not entitled to any land tenure arrangement in the PA. Whatever transactions made by original occupants or claimants of the areas subject of the CDOs and those who are now constructing vacation houses have no validity at all. The original claimants also loss the opportunity of becoming tenured migrants in NNNP, and therefore, have no rights to stay in the PA.

Some individuals opine that it maybe possible for the owners of vacation houses to avail of Special Agreements, in Protected Areas, or SAPA, as provided in DENR Administrative Order 17, Series of 2007. It should be noted that the SAPA is currently suspended due to some issues associated with the different interpretations even within the DENR.

Originally, this guideline was intended for activities designed to benefit communities and for public purposes, such as ecotourism, as well as the promotion of biodiversity conservation, and not for personal interest and use.  This should also be granted with prior PAMB endorsement.  Technically speaking, it is to my opinion that there is no way to accommodate in NNNP the vested interest of private individuals who dared to construct vacation houses without prior permit.*

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