Written by Darlene Motil
Forester Frederic A Mangumpit represents Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the intergency meeting.
AURORA, ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR — Only two out of 49 public schools have secured official documents of ownership of their school sites in the municipality of Aurora in Zamboanga del Sur. In the entire province, less than a tenth of around 800 elementary and secondary public schools have titled lands.
Titling of school sites has been a nagging problem of the Department of Education (DepEd) for decades. Earlier this year, CheckMySchool reported that 99% of public school sites in the province of Rizal has the same problem. (Read: Rizal acts on land titling problem)
Most of the school sites are donated by private individuals or government entities, but have not been legally transferred to DepEd’s name.
This issue does not only impede the development of the schools, but also puts thousands of schoolchildren at risk of being displaced.
According to Jezreel Lopez, focal person on School Sites Land Titling – DepEd ZDS Division, there had been instructions to school heads to include titling in their priorities. Most of the schools were not able to do so because they didn’t know where to go or who to talk to.
Atty. Jhomel M Armecin of DepEd-Zamboanga del Sur Division discusses different school site titling cases in the municipality of Aurora.
Faye Reyes, CheckMySchool coordinator in Aurora, knew that this issue needs an urgent response. She interviewed school personnel and real estate professionals to learn more about land title ownership. She consulted fellow CheckMySchool coordinator Maria Emily Matias, who has been helping DepEd Rizal on the same issue since last year.
She found out that there are different types of land titling issues. Several line government agencies are mandated to facilitate land titling for specific issues. “Every school has a different case or situation, and a particular government agency is responsible for a specific case. Example, if the school site is an agricultural land or if it’s under CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program), it will be addressed to the Department of Agrarian Reform. iIf the school site is a timberland or a released land, it will be the DENR’s,” Reyes explained.
With this information, Reyes organized an inter-agency conference to ensure collaboration between the different agencies involved in land titling processes. It was attended by Atty. Samrollah M Dekire of Registry of Deeds, Ms Jenna Salaug of Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Forester Frederic A Mangumpit of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Atty. Jhomel M Armecin of Department of Education – ZDS (DepEd ZDS), and the Local Government of Aurora through the Committee on Education represented by Lilibeth Panugan. The officers from these agencies gave a comprehensive guide on how to process a land title for a school site.
They committed to fast track the process of land titling. In turn, they asked the school heads to prioritize the issue and visit their offices, so they could thoroughly look at the individual land title cases of every school in Aurora. They reiterated that while there are no adverse claims yet, schools should be acquiring the title before a possible land problem arises.
It was announced at the conference that DepEd ZDS plans to hire a surveyor to facilitate the land titling to relieve school heads the burden of securing the documentary requirements.
Key agencies commit to work together to fast track the titling of 47 school sites in Aurora, ZDS.
DepEd, with DENR, and DAR, thanked CheckMySchool for initiating the inter-agency conference. DepEd officially asked for partnership with CheckMySchool to assist them in school sites titling issues.
The LGU-Committee on Education and ROD committed that they will keep their doors open for any school concerns.
The education stakeholders hope to roll out a similar interagency meeting in the whole province. “If the province-wide conference on school site land titling will push through, the school heads were advised to bring along with them the available documents, so they could tell them right away what agency to tap,” Reyes shared.
Reyes is optimistic that they are one step closer in ending this issue. “I’m happy with the outcome of the event because we got commitments from the concerned government agencies to facilitate the issue at hand. But the ultimate fulfillment can only be achieved when all the school sites in Aurora are already titled and registered under DepEd,” she said.