Attacked for link to Palawan ranch, Loyzaga retorts: Why now? Who benefits?

Iya Gozum

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Attacked for link to Palawan ranch, Loyzaga retorts: Why now? Who benefits?

TONI. Environment Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga appears before the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change hearing on September 27, 2023.

Senate PRIB photos

The environment secretary denies knowing how the Yulo King Ranch came to be under the Marcos dictatorship, as she was still in high school then

MANILA, Philippines – Following controversies of illegal structures in protected areas in the Philippines, Environment Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga finds herself under attack over her family’s alleged ownership of vast tracts of public land in Palawan.

The land in question is the 40,000-hectare Yulo King Ranch (YKR) in Palawan, which the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) sequestered in 1986 on grounds that it was part of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth.

“Ang tinatanong ko lang po ngayon is bakit po binabato po sa akin ngayon itong mga questions na ito at sino pong makikinabang dito sa pagbato sa amin ng ganitong mga tanong at mga akusasyon,” Loyzaga said in a radio interview on Wednesday, April 10.

(I want to know why they are hurling these questions at me now, and who will benefit from the inquiries and accusations.)

The environment secretary’s association with the ranch stems from her father, businessman and alleged Marcos “crony” Luis Yulo. The late Yulo was a major stockholder of YKR.

“Ang iniisip ko po ngayon is may mga tao, may mga grupo na siguro hindi po masyadong masaya sa pag-approach ko [sa] evidence-informed governance. Pero meron din namang masaya doon,” Loyzaga said.

(What I’m thinking now is that there are people, groups that probably aren’t happy with my approach with evidence-informed governance. But there are also people who are happy with that.)

The environment secretary did not specify who, but she mentioned the controversies hounding Masungi Geopark in Rizal and the structures in Chocolate Hills, issues that need “investigation of previous administrations’ decisions.”

“That is what I’m doing now,” she said.

Loyzaga broke her silence last April 5 when she denied the Yulo family’s ownership of the pasture reserve in Palawan.

“I wish to clarify that the Busuanga Pasture Reserve has always been government-owned. The Yulo family has never owned this land and has no interest in owning it,” she said in a press statement.

She further denied having any knowledge of how YKR came to be under the Marcos dictatorship, as she was still in high school then.

“Nasa high school pa po ako [noong] 1975 at ang alam ko po, this was a project that the first president Marcos, ang ating pangulong Ferdinand Marcos Sr., na in-envision niya para sa food security ng bayan,” Loyzaga said during the radio interview on Wednesday.

“‘Yun lang po ang alam ko noong 1975. I wish to refute any allegation na napasaamin itong lupa na ‘to. Ni minsan, hindi naging pribado siya.”

(I was still in high school in 1975 and what I know is that this was a project of the first president Marcos, which he envisioned to address food security in the country. That’s what I know back in 1975. I wish to refute any allegations that the land became ours. It never became private.)

In 1975, the late Yulo, along with Roberto Sabido, Geronimo Velasco, Jose Madrigal, and Peter Morris organized the YKR Corporation.

Three years later, Marcos Sr. attempted to centralize the importation of cattle and goats in YKR. In turn, the corporation was supposed to manage and develop the grazing land, as well as provide technological expertise.

When it was sequestered in 1986, the PCGG gave the land back to then Ministry of Agriculture. A decades-long civil lawsuit followed.

In 2023, the Sandiganbayan dismissed the case “for failure of the plaintiff to prove by preponderance of evidence the material allegations contained in the amended complaint.” This lifted the sequestration order on YKR. –

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.