[two_third]Indigenous tribes were displaced from their community in the government’s counter-insurgency programs that unleashed paramilitary groups in the hinterlands. When they returned to their lands, they found that settlers have applied their ancestral land for agrarian reform program and forestry projects.
By DANILDA L. FUSILERO
KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato, Philippines — In both times of war and peace, these two indigenous tribes are fighting for their ancestral land.
The Blaan tribe’s Labugal Tribal Association (LTA) in Tulunan town and the Manobo’s Nagkahiusang Katawhang Talaengod sa Antipas (Nakata) in Antipas town, share such similar stories.
Both were displaced from their community in the government’s counter-insurgency programs that unleashed paramilitary groups in the hinterlands. When they returned to their lands, they found that settlers have applied their ancestral land for agrarian reform program and forestry projects.
Displaced by war
The Blaans belonging to the clans of Banan, Mangalen, Sumale, Mangge and Capion from Kolonsalnafel, Lampagang village in Tulunan questioned the inclusion of their 712-hectare ancestral land applied by farmers who settled in their territories.
The tribe was displaced in the 1970s when war between the two fanatic armed groups, the Ilaga and Blackshirts affected them. When they returned, they found settlers from nearby villages farming in their land.
In 2000, the settlers contested the land by applying for a Certificate of Land-Ownership Award (CLOA).
Settlers have already planted bananas and Gmelina trees, claiming that what they did is based on the government’s land reform program.
The conflict has reportedly led to the killing of one Rogelio Malayang in September 2007 and the harassment on one Michael Banan, both descendants of the original Blaan clans in the area and active members of LTA.
In a press statement, LTA called on concerned agencies to act on the land conflict issue for finality and afford them of what they called their “since-immemorial rights” over ancestral territories.
It added that civilian authorities should exercise impartiality instead of “muddling” the issue in favor of the settler-claimants.
Like the Blaans, the Manobo tribe in Sitio Alibayon, Malatab village, Antipas town also shared similar sentiments.
Sporadic harassment perpetrated by the fanatic Ilaga group forced them to abandon their 500-hectare ancestral lands in Sitio Alibayon.
When they returned to their territory in 1997, their elders were slapped with criminal cases they hardly understand. They also found that Ilonggo settlers have come to their land and applied for the government’s CBFMA (Community Based Forest Management Agreement) that covered their land.
Forty-one-year old Marcelo Lintad, Nakata chairperson, told Davao Today that their entire ancestral lands are targeted for the government’s forestry and greening program, oil palm and rubber plantation, municipal garbage dumpsite and an eco-tourism park.
Lintad said “(settlers) were mobilized by (Antipas) Mayor Van Cadungon using the government program on social forestry CBFMA.”
“Eventually, these projects will drive us away,” Lintad lamented.
Lintad also scored the military, particularly the 57th Infantry Battalion, for its continued encampment within their ancestral domain. “We’ve been opposing their installation of detachment in our area, but to no avail,” he said.
Nakata accused the 57th IB of aiding the settlers in clearing the area.
In November 4, 2011, a 12-year old Manobo Joel Awog was killed after his family defended their farm from intruding settlers.
Bai Norma Capuyan of the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato, a provincial federation of lumad organizations, here described the tribes’ act of reclaiming their ancestral lands as a “fearsome fight.”
She added, the lumads’ customary rights over their ancestral territories were vehemently violated under the Government’s various programs and projects.
“We may not be well-versed on pertinent laws and processes, but we have wisdom and commitment to protect our ancestral domains from further destruction,” Capuyan said, as she questioned efficacy of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act to defend them.
Italian missionary Father Peter Geremia said that the lumads are most vulnerable to abuse and deceit.
A staunch defender of lumads’ rights, Geremia said their lack of knowledge on laws, policies and programs is used against them. “They are the most vulnerable prey of false development,” Geremia said. (Danilda L. Fusilero/davaotoday.com)World