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Environment secretary vows to look into land grabbing row

Saturday, August 22, 2009 [ ]

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Lito Atienza said he would personally investigate the problem of a 3-hectare landowner in Taguig as he vowed to prosecute officials in the agency who may be in collusion with a land grabbing syndicate.

“I will personally give this my attention,” Atienza said in a forum held in Greenhills, San Juan City.

Artemio Quiambao Jr. a resident of Barangay Signal Village, Taguig, alleged that several syndicates are taking efforts to take away a 3 hectare land that was awarded to him by the government in Taguig more than three decades ago.

“Kung may mga opisyal ako na involved I can guarantee Mr. Quiam­bao that [the officials] would all face prosecution,” Atienza said.

Quiambao sought the intercession of Atienza after an alleged land grabbing syndicate continued to try to take over his parcel of land.

Quiambao said that problems started in September 1989 when he applied for a survey authority from the Land Management Bureau (LMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Quiambao said then that a certain Teresita Cuevas Tolentino and Rolando Cuevas, surfaced to claim ownership of the land.

On December 22, 1995, Ricardo Serrano, the Environment Regional executive director issued a decision in his favor, junking Cueva’s claim.

The decision was affirmed by then Environment Secretary Antonio Cerilles, making the decision final and executory in January 19, 2001

However, after his battle with Cuevas, Quiambao said another group surfaced again, claiming ownership right over the same parcel of land that was awarded to him.

He said certain officials of the DENR led by Engr. Mariano Flotildes, Danilo Lim, Elmo Cabotahi, John Bautista, along with LMB official led by Allan Barcena, a certain Perez, issued a survey authority to Molave Yakal Progressive Movement, or MYPM in April 2007.

According to Quiambao, he filed a formal protest before the DENR-NCR, Land Management Services, questioning the issuance of a survey authority to MYPM by Flotildes’ group, but Regional Executive Director Samzon de Leon’s junked his protest on December 14, 2007.

On July 24, 2008, Regional Executive Director Corazon Davis decided in Quiambao’s favor, setting aside de Leon’s order, giving him back ownership right over the disputed parcel of land.

On June 30, 2009, however, Regional Executive Director Jose Andres Diaz opposed Davis decision, this time, favoring Perez-Molave Yakal Progressive Movement.

Quiambao said he has been awarded right over the parcel of land since the 1970s but attempts to take the ownership right remains a threat, allegedly because such attempts are being entertained and supported by DENR officials who seemed to be in cahoots with land-grabbers.

He appealed to Atienza to once and for all rid the agency of corrupt officials as well as those working with members of the syndicate engaged in land-grabbing activities.

According to Quiambao, land-grabbing activities are also rampant in the provinces, where legitimate beneficiaries of agrarian reform eventually lose their land to members of syndicates who are in cahoots with erring DENR officials.

He urged lawmakers to look into such illegal activities, saying the syndicate is out to victimize thousands of farmers who may not have the courage to fight back.

Reporters tried but failed to get in touch with officials from the LMB.

--Francis Earl A. Cueto


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