BY SR. M. FRANCIS BURGOS-AÑOVER,RSM
Directress, Fatima College of Camiguin
Posted by Bulatlat.com
Vol. VIII, No. 31, September 7-13, 2008
I am a Bulatlat subscriber who was once assigned in Tacloban City, Leyte and was featured with my picture hugging a widow and her children after her husband was among the farmers massacred by the military in Palo, Leyte in November 2005.
Since last year, I was assigned here in Camiguin Island, as school head of one of our mercy schools, Fatima College of Camiguin.
Camiguin Island has two islets, one is the White Sand islet which is uninhabited, but the other islet Mantigue is inhabited. News reached my office that some residents of Mantigue island were imprisoned, and the others have pending warrants of arrest. So today, Sunday August 31, I went to one of our convents in the municipality of Mahinog, where that island belongs as there are also RSM sisters administering a secondary parochial school.
I gathered information about 42 victim-families who were charged with illegal occupancy of Mantigue island.
A family (Pedro Portrias/Felipa/Danilo/Maria Luz) was served a warrant of arrest Aug. 8, 2008 by the Mahinog trial court for the abovementioned case, but they posted bail for their temporary release. They even included another son of Pedro named Gaspar who had been dead for a year, in the warrant.
The 4.4 hectare Mantigue island is part of the municipality of Mahinog. It was occupied by migrants from Bohol in the early 1950’s. The oldest resident is Luisa Pladias who is 89 years old. Their means of living is through fishing, growing seaweeds (guso) which they sell in Mambajao and Mahinog. A family has a generator to supply electricity from 6 to 9pm to some families.
At the beginning there were few families but they grew through the years. Of late there are forty-two (42) households with about 300 population. A kagawad (village councilor) resides in the island. Julito Portrias is the current kagawad, and his father Teofilo Portrias was also a former Kagawad. A complete elementary school from Grade 1-6 is found in the island, but the teachers come from Mahinog who come to the island early Monday and leaves Friday afternoon. There exists a Catholic chapel named after their patron saint Our Mother of Perpetual Help, as it is part of the St. Michael Parish in Mahinog.
In 1987 then DENR Secretary Fulgencio Facturan Jr. declared the island as alienable and disposable land and therefore it is fit for titling and ownership. On March 16, 1998 DENR Secretary Victor Ramos issued Administrative Order 98-13 reverting the Mantigue Island’s category to forest land. The local government unit of Mahinog and the provincial government of Camiguin are hell-bent to make Mantigue island a tourist destination, as it is part of the master tourism plan of the province to be a top eco-tourism destination. Hence they considered the residents of the island as illegal occupants, offered them a relocation site in Brgy. San Roque, with each family to be given a sack of rice, plus 5,000 pesos and a 10-day carpenter assistance. Families who will opt to transfer outside the relocation site will be given 10,000 pesos. They promised to give each family livelihood assistance, as the local government allocated 400,000 pesos for the resettlement of the families.
However, in an interview I conducted, it was revealed that only a half sack of rice was given to the eight families who volunteered to leave the island and went to the relocation site, and were given only 5 days carpenter assistance. Hence the families felt they were duped, and are now going back and forth to the island or staying with their relatives to look for livelihood to support their families. Due to the fear of being issued warrants of arrest, seven more families volunteered to leave the island, but are still there waiting for their relocation and assistance.
Another data I gathered from police records and hospital records show an increasing number of rape cases in the island, as well as the proliferation of drugs.
What is inspiring is the unified stand of the remaining 24 families with warrants of arrest who expressed their resistance to leave the island. They will NOT leave because the island is their source of livelihood, they were born there, established relationships with people and with nature. They also found out that in the relocation site there are no livelihood opportunities, and they have been used to fishing. Their call is: STOP the eviction of the families in Mantigue Island! Provide livelihood opportunities. Posted by (Bulatlat.com)
The residents has the right to live in that Island. I hope the government will look for the good of those affected residents. If they will convert that Island to a full tourist spot, they should provide those families sufficient support to make another livelihood.
But it's very sad to note, the Philippine government is full of corrupt, selfish officials who only look for their own good. Living life with luxury at the expense of the poor taxpayer's money.