DENR: Seven Seas built on tim­ber­land

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Front Page - By PJ Orias

Seven Seas Wa­ter Park and Re­sort in Barra, Opol town in Misamis Ori­en­tal is sit­ting on an area that is clas­si­fied as tim­ber­land, of­fi­cials of the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources (DENR) in North­ern Min­danao dis­closed in a round-ta­ble dis­cus­sion yes­ter­day, April 13.

Lawyer Florenda La­masaon-Yap, chief of DENR-10’s le­gal di­vi­sion, said its of­fice has an on­go­ing le­gal bat­tle against UC-1 Cor­po­ra­tion, the owner and op­er­a­tor of Seven Seas Wa­ter Park and Re­sort, and also against LS Prop­er­ties, the 20-hectare prop­erty’s pre­vi­ous owner.

La­ma­son-Yap said they are seek­ing the can­cel­la­tion of the land ti­tle of the 20-hectare prop­erty that UC-1 ac­quired from LS Prop­er­ties in 2010.

LS Prop­er­ties re­port­edly owns the 50 hectares land in Barra, Opol town.

“The clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the land is tim­ber­land so in essence, it shouldn’t be ti­tled be­cause it is a pub­lic do­main. But what hap­pened was, the LS Prop­er­ties some­how got a ti­tle still but not from us, but through ju­di­cial pro­ceed­ings. They ac­quired the ti­tle of the 50 hectares back in 2002, and they sub­se­quently sold 20 hectares of it to UC-1 Cor­po­ra­tion, and the other 30 hectares to a busi­ness­man,” La­ma­sonYap said. En­gi­neer Agnes De­jo­ras, chief of the Sur­veys and Map­ping Di­vi­sion, ex­plained that there are about four

gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties that can is­sue ti­tles namely the DENR, De­part­ment of Agrar­ian Re­form, the Na­tional Com­mis­sion on Indige­nous Peo­ples (NCIP), and the court.

LS Prop­er­ties re­port­edly ac­quired their ti­tle from the Re­gional Trial Court Branch 39.

“I can­not an­swer for Branch 39 but this is why they are also re­spon­dents of the case. But be­fore, there is some­how lack of co­or­di­na­tion be­tween th­ese gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties that is why th­ese things hap­pen,” she said.

“All lands which are pub­lic do­main are un­der the DENR, un­less it was turned over to other agen­cies,” she adds.

The 50-hectare land has been clas­si­fied as tim­ber­land since 1940. The area was a fish­pond be­fore LS Prop­er­ties ac­quired a ti­tle.

Lawyer Jan El­son Orquil­las of the Provin­cial En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Of­ficeMisamis Ori­en­tal (PENRO) also dis­closed that a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der had been is­sued by the Court of Ap­peals (CA) in re­la­tion to the prop­erty. It was is­sued last Jan­uary 19, 2018 and was in ef­fect for 60 days.

Orquil­las said they con­ducted an oc­u­lar in­spec­tion last month to see if Seven Seas stopped its op­er­a­tions as di­rected by the court through the TRO.

“But they con­tin­ued their op­er­a­tions in that pe­riod, sup­pos­edly all ac­tiv­i­ties should be sus­pended so as to pre­serve the sta­tus quo,” he said. A re­port was sub­mit­ted to the Of­fice of the So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral and CA for the re­sults of the oc­u­lar in­spec­tion.

In­stead of own­ing the area, La­ma­son-Yap said the UC-1 could lease it for com­mer­cial use but “own­er­ship is an­other story”.

The only way for Seven Seas and other pri­vate com­pa­nies want­ing to own a pub­lic do­main area is to go to Congress and pe­ti­tion to re­clas­sify the land, she adds.

“But un­less the Congress says oth­er­wise, it will stay as tim­ber­land and as a pub­lic do­main,” La­ma­son-Yap said.

Asked for com­ment, En­gi­neer El­pidio Paras, pres­i­dent of UC-1 Cor­po­ra­tion, said they are leav­ing the mat­ter for the court to de­cide.

“We were not in­vited so I have no com­ment ex­cept the mat­ter is for the courts to de­cide at the proper time and venue. As far as we are con­cerned we have a ju­di­cial ti­tle which was ac­quired in a le­gal and proper way. The oth­ers who lay claim to it do not have any rights as far as we are con­cerned,” Paras said in a text mes­sage.

Seven Seas is a pi­rate-themed park with over 20 dif­fer­ent slides, rides and at­trac­tions as well as restau­rants, cafes and food kiosks.

The theme park opened in De­cem­ber 2017 and draws thou­sands of tourists from all over the coun­try.

Seven Seas Wa­ter Park and Re­sort Suns­tar file photo

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