LORAN ‘owners’ would have to go to court to press claim

With the LORAN lot already titled in the name of the Philippine Coast Guard, the heirs of the Villena family claiming the land would have to file suit with the Regional Trial Court.

According to a provincial official, this would now be the recourse of the heirs, who through counsel sent a letter to the Bagamanoc local government in 2019 claiming ownership of the LORAN land and asking town officials to stop the construction of the proposed Coast Guard base.

One member of the family who has occupied the abandoned US Coast Guard station, 85-year-old Florenia Arcilla Bonifacio, had discussed with the visiting generals from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2021 the proposed development of the site as the Philippine Navy’s Forward Operating Base (FOB).

Bonifacio’s son Raul, a former salesman for Saudi Airlines in Jeddah, came home in 2019 just before the coronavirus pandemic began, to take care of his mother.

He told the Tribune then that Florenia does not want to leave the place where she and her husband Amador lived and raised their family.

Raul disclosed that his father, who died six years ago, worked as an assistant cook while his mother was assigned in the laundry during the entire time that the US Coast Guard operated the facility from 1953 t0 1971.

Erected under the Military Bases Agreement signed by then President Manual Roxas and US High Commissioner Paul McNutt, the station consisted of seven buildings and two concrete water tanks and was manned by 21 personnel tasked with providing navigation guidance to US battleships. Submarines and airplanes.

The American government did not pay any rental for the property and only paid the Villenas remuneration for crops and trees affected in its construction, Raul claimed.

In fact, he said, the USCG gave his mother a document allowing her to travel to the United States without securing a visa in recognition of the work she did at the time.

When the Americans left in 1971, the facility was taken over by the PCG, which also shut it down in 1977.

The Bonifacio family began occupying the facilities, converting one of the rooms into their home and planting crops and raising chickens in their land.

At the time, Raul said he does not object to the possible use of the land and the facility by the Philippine Navy, as long as appropriate compensation is paid along with the assurance that members of the heirs’ families could be employed.

He also said that if that time comes, he hopes the national government would be compassionate enough to relocate him, his mother and a nephew to another home on Panay island.

Meanwhile, the New People’s Army recently urged Catandunganons to oppose the plan to build the naval base on the island.

In a statement issued in March 2022, Raymundo Buenferza, spokesperson of the Romulo Jallores Command, called on the islanders not to allow the possible intrusion of foreign forces through the establishment of the base as it would also worsen human rights violations.

It described Gov. Cua as a “lapdog” who would do all he can, even to use government funds to purchase land for the base, and to enrich his own political and economic interests.

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