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Villar backs conversion of Cebu’s Bantayan Island from wildlife preserve to agri-industrial area

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BANTAYAN, Cebu — Senator Cynthia Villar on Saturday vowed to help the residents of Bantayan in their quest for the reclassification of the island from a Protected Wilderness Area into an agricultural, commercial, industrial, and residential area.

Bantayan is among the 51 islands declared as Protected Wilderness Areas under Presidential Decree No. 2151 by late Ferdinand Marcos in 1981 and its residents are now asking for its conversion.

“This is the first time for me to hear of such case, but I will do my best to help the people of Bantayan,” Villar said during the Bantayan Island Stakeholders Forum at the Bantayan Multi-Purpose Center.

“I will ask the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to study the area and then we can do committee hearings about this. Naiiba kasi ang kasong ito, kasi may mga nakatirang tao sa isla,” Villar said.

” I’m not even aware that a bill reclassifying Bantayan as alienable and disposable land has been filed,” she added.

Congressman Benhur Salimbangon of the 4th District of Cebu filed House Bill 2127 in 2016 which seeks the conversion of Bantayan Island to agricultural, industrial, residential and commercial land from a protected wilderness area.

She said it was unfair for the residents in the island who could not have their properties titled because of the declaration.

The stakeholders asked the senator to grant their wish as their Christmas gift.

Villar, however, said it would be impossible to have the bill approved before the holidays considering the budget is the Senate’s priority.

Bantayan Mayor Ian Escario was hopeful that the island would eventually be reclassified by this Congress or the next. (PNA)