By NITZ ARANCON
IT’S all about the money.
Opol Mayor Maximo Seno yesterday exposed a shadowy group behind moves to void the land title covering a property where Seven Seas Water Park and Resort now stands, saying it is beginning to look to him like an extortion attempt.
Seno also accused the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here of allowing itself to be used by an organization that presents itself as a representative of indigenes.
“As far as I am concerned, nakita nako ang anggolo nga ilang toyo nianang mga ‘tribal-tribal’ … extortion, money, human gamiton lang nila ang DENR,” Seno told the Gold Star Daily.
The DENR has moved to nullify the land title covering 20 hectares in Barra, Opol town in Misamis Oriental that was turned into a theme park by UC-1 Corp. after it was sold to it by the Sarmiento-owned LS Property Inc.. DENR officials assert that the theme park is operating on a timberland.
The trouble started long before UC-1 came into the picture. According to Seno, about 800 people who claimed to be Higaonon from Bukidnon had attempted to squat on the 59-hectare Sarmiento property in Barra, Opol, claiming that it was part of an ancestral domain.
Seno, a former barangay chairman of Barra, said the dispute reached the court, and the Sarmientos eventually won.
After losing the case, he said the group then asked the Sarmientos to just give them one hectare of the Barra property.
“Wala man mohatag si Sarmiento. Ang ilang giapas karon ang nakapalit. Unsa may labot sa nakapalit ana nga titulado man kana nga yuta,” Seno said.
He said one of the leaders of the group went to see him at his office to ask for support before the controversy about the Seven Seas property started.
Seno said he flatly turned down the request because he was aware that the Sarmiento property, including the theme park, is covered by a land title.
Engr. Elpidio Paras, UC-1 president, told the Gold Star Daily he, too, has been suspecting that there was a group that was behind the recent moves of the DENR.
Paras however declined to identify the group but he revealed that there was a group that wanted to illegally occupy the Barra property.
“Nahibaw-an namo nga na-ay usa ka grupo diha nga mao na ang gusto mo-squat sa among area ug ilang gigamit ang DENR. Lo-oy lang kaayo ang DENR kay gigamit lang siya,” Paras said.
He maintained that he legally acquired the Barra property.
“Napalit namo legitimately. Na-ay titulo. Ang katingalahan lang kay nganong kami raman ang gipili sa DENR nga pasaka-an sa kasong annulment of title nga kon ingnon pa nga tanan diha nga yuta forest land man kuno na hangtud sa Laguidingan,” he said.
Paras also questioned the timing of the DENR’s move to void the land title, saying it is suspect.
“For us, it’s highly questionable kay nganong karon pa man nila gipagawas na,” he said.