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House committee declares KIG alienable and disposable land

A committee of the House of Representatives on Tuesday declared the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the disputed West Philippine Sea as “alienable and disposable land” suited for agricultural, residential and commercial purposes.

The committee on natural resources chaired by Rep. Arnel Ty (Party-list, LPGMA) approved House Bill 5614  to promote permanent dwelling and develop a viable source of livelihood for the residents in the KIG.

The declaration seeks to promote the growth of business opportunities and spur the development of trade and industry by attracting investors to the area, according to them.

During the hearing, Rep. Roger Mercado (Southern Leyte) sponsored the bill on behalf of its authors,  Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.

The bill’s explanatory note says that the KIG offers rich fishing grounds and contains significant oil and natural gas reserves. It is vital to the security and economic survival of the Philippines.

Alvarez said the Municipality of Kalayaan is making new projects to promote tourism for the island group. It is inviting Filipino businessmen to invest in Kalayaan although investors are reluctant because the island group is inalienable and non-disposable for agricultural, residential and commercial purposes.

“Even residents who have been long tilling and developing the parcels of land within the Kalayaan Island Group cannot apply for the title for their occupied area,” Alvarez said.

Fariñas said Presidential Decree No. 1596 constituted the KIG as a distinct and separate municipality of the Province of Palawan. It is now known as the Municipality of Kalayaan.

The KIG is composed of Pagasa (Thitu), Likas, Parola, Lawak, Kota, Patag, Panata, Ayungin Reef, Balagtas Reef and Rizal Reef with a total land area of 0.79 km² (0.31 sq. mi) constituting the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan.

The declaration of KIG as alienable and disposable land for agricultural, residential, commercial and other productive purposes was subject to actual survey and delineation, as described in Presidential Decree No. 1596, entitled “Declaring Certain Area Part of the Philippine Territory and Providing For Their Government and Administration.

The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources shall promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act.Within 90 days after the effectivity of the Act,

During the hearing, Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. General Salvador Melchor Mison Jr. cited the AFP development plans for the KIG Islands amounting to P11.6 billion.

These were the enhancement of the habitability of the islands; construction of a berthing space for Philippine Navy vessels and other vessels; 3) upgrading of the defense structures of the islands; improvement of existing facilities such as roads and airstrip, and provision of water and power facilities and communication equipment.#