Cagayan de Oro City (25 April) -- TO restore Mantigue Island's natural wealth and beauty, provincial and municipal officials in Camiguin are taking steps to relocate the illegal occupants and start the rehabilitation process.
Sangguniang Panlalawigan member and SP tourism committee chair Jesus D. Pacuribot said Governor Jurdin Jesus M. Romualdo, together with Mahinog town Mayor Alex R. Jajalla and SP members, has prepared a relocation site in Barangay Roque, Mahinog.
Pacuribot also said the municipal government of Mahinog has allocated P400,000 for the resettlement project and offered a sack of rice, P5,000, and a 10-day free carpenter assistance to each of the first five families who heeds the call to relocate.
For those who opt to transfer outside the relocation site, each family will be given P10,000, he said.
The affected families will also be provided with livelihood assistance, he added.
To date, Pacuribot said, three of the 42 families have already transferred to the relocation site after getting an eviction letter from the Provincial Prosecutor.
Pacuribot said following the conduct of a public hearing in Mantigue, an eviction letter signed by the Provincial Prosecutor was issued to the occupants early this year.
Also known as Magsaysay Island, the 4.4-hectare Mantigue Island, which is part of the municipality of Mahinog, was once a turtle sanctuary and teeming with marine resources.
He recalled that it was declared as alienable and disposable land in 1987 by then Secretary Fulgencio Factoran Jr. of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. As an alienable and disposable land, it is fit for titling or ownership.
However, on March 16, 1998, DENR Secretary Victor O. Ramos issued Administrative Order No. 98-13, reverting Mantigue's category to forest land. As a forest land, any person is prohibited to enter and occupy or possess for own private use without authority or in any manner that destroys it.
Pacuribot also recounted that by this time, the number of families illegally occupying the islet grew and their presence threatened the resources in the area.
The turtles stopped coming in, trees were cut, and garbage disposal became a perennial problem, he added.
A former mayor of Mahinog, Pacuribot said this situation prompted him to file resolutions in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to save Mantigue.
He said his efforts finally paid off when the SP supported his cause to save and rehabilitate Mantigue.
The collective effort to save Mantigue is now enshrined in the master tourism plan of the province as it continues to push as one of the country's top eco-tourism destinations.
He believes that once the island is rehabilitated, it will once again flaunt its natural beauty, "where we can all endlessly enjoy its glorious white sand and blue water."
Hopefully by then, the turtles will come back, Pacuribot said, adding that their presence would surely boost the tourism prospects of Mantigue and Camiguin as a whole. (by Jorie C. Valcorza- PIA-MisOrOccCam)