‘GIVE US OUR LANDS’ – Panay IPs lament ancestral lands woes

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INDIGENOUS Peoples tribe leaders in Panay meet with CHR Commissioners Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana and Roberto Cadiz in a consultation at Iloilo City, May 25-26, 2017. (Ricky D. Alejo)

INDIGENOUS Peoples (IP) in Panay Island turned to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to air their woes, particularly the lack of papers that will cement their claim on their ancestral lands.

In the National Inquiry on the Human Rights Situation of the Filipino Indigenous Peoples – Visayas Leg held May 25-26 at Days Hotel Iloilo City, lawyer Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, CHR Focal Commissioner on IP Rights, learned that the problems of IPs in Panay Islands are mostly about ancestral lands, access to basic and other government services like education and health, lack of basic infrastructures like roads, health centers and school buildings, lack of livelihood support, threats to their culture and traditions, unregistered births, deaths and marriages, etc.

Ati tribe chieftain Pablito Estora of Sitio Tag-ao, Tamulalud, Dumarao in Capiz told Gana that his group has long been waiting for the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) to their lands that span six barangays.

He said the problem is they don’t have title to their lands, thus, they are frequently threatened by encroachers. Apparently, their ancestral domain overlaps with another land distribution instrumentality of the government – the Certificate of Land Ownership (CLOA) issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

“When the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) surveyed our ancestral domain sometime in 1990s, it was around 1,225 hectares. But when the CADC (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claims) came out, it was reduced in half,” Estora said in Karay-a.

The Akeanon-Bukidnon in Madalag, Aklan shared the same problem. Lester Agapito, tribe leader, said their group has no idea how to apply for CADC.

“There is a proposed school building for the IPs but the site identified for the project is a subject of boundary disputes between two barangays,” he said in Filipino.

Another tribal chieftain in Tapaz, Capiz called on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to hasten -track the processing of their group’s CADT to determine the boundaries between their ancestral lands and the military reserve of Camp Peralta.

“Ang problema namin sa Tapaz, iisa lang, ancestral domain. Dapat ang NCIP madaliin nila ang pag-proseso ng CADT,” he said.

“Kung talagang sinsero ang NCIP na tumulong sa aming mga IP, 20 years na bakit hanggang ngayon wala pa rin (kaming ancestral domain)?” he asked.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 recognizes, protects and promotes the rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples.

NCIP Commissioner for the Visayas Roy Dabuit noted the problems of the tribes saying that the NCIP’s thrust starting in 2017 is to empower the IPs.

Under the Duterte administration, Dabuit said NCIP is set to conduct a census of IPs in the country to establish baseline data on IP population and other demographics.

Meanwhile, Gana said there is a need to strengthen IPRA.

“The primary law that deals with IPs is the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997. We have either to strengthen the IPRA, maybe amend some provisions that would capacitate them to attend to all these pressing needs of IPs,” Gana said.

Through the CHR inquiry, Gana hopes to address the IP problems through inter-agency initiatives.



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