Estrella orders grant of land to till to 44 Ati’s displaced in Boracay land dispute

DAR Secretary Conrado M. Estrella III. (DAR file photo)

Agrarian Reform Secretary Conrado Estrella III has directed the allocation of government-owned land (GOL) to 44 Ati individuals from Boracay who were displaced when a collective Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) issued by the previous administration was canceled.

Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Napoleon U. Galit stated that Estrella issued the directive immediately after the owners of the 1,282 square meter land, which the Ati’s, all members of the Boracay Ati Tribal Association, had been occupying, reclaimed the property on March 26 (Tuesday).

Galit mentioned that Estrella expressed serious concern over the displacement of the Ati individuals, who were among the indigenous peoples granted CLOAs during the term of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

“DAR will extend all assistance and support services to all our agrarian reform beneficiaries, but we must uphold the law,” said Galit.

Galit disclosed that the 44 BATO members preferred the subdivision of the 1,282 square meter property among themselves, thus, giving them only about 30 square meters each to own.

However, Estrella wants the affected Ati’s to get back to farming by giving them their own agricultural land to cultivate, according to Galit.

Records of the case indicated that Digna Elizabeth Ventura, whose property covered the 1,282 sqm of land occupied by the BATO members, filed a protest on April 10, 2019, against the inclusion of her property in the CLOA granted to the BATO members in 2018.

In 2020, the DAR-Regional Office 6 archived the case after ordering Ventura to show a soil analysis test regarding the suitability of the questioned land for agricultural purposes.

In 2023, Ventura presented a certification issued by the Agricultural Land Management and Evaluation Division of the Bureau of Soils under the Department of Agriculture, confirming that the subject land is “not suitable for agriculture”.

Acting on the DA findings, DARRO-6 Regional Director Sheila B. Enciso upheld the protest filed by Ventura on March 15, 2023.

Enciso also directed the property claimant to file an application for CLOA cancellation before the Office of the Secretary.

Galit said that the Office of the Secretary, in a March 5, 2024 order, issued a final order of CLOA cancellation as it noted that the 44 claimants failed to show proof that would invalidate the DA certification that the questioned land is not suitable for agriculture.

“The petitioners representing BATO were unable to present any controverting evidence that would have prompted us to overrule the DARRO’s ruling. They lacked evidence to support their claim of occupancy of the area covered by the CLOA,” said Galit.

Galit also pointed out that the filing of the motion for reconsideration was in default.