BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/ 30 November)– Bad roads and vague national policies on tenurial rights continue to hobble Manobo tribal members in Agusan del Sur amid a backdrop of a pilot undertaking seen to address their decades-old problem on their right to self-determination.
Datu Fernando “Ampoan” Igom, tribal chieftain of Sta. Maria, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur, said their community still suffers from the agony of bad dirt roads that made it difficult for them to transport their products to the markets.
“The roads are really difficult for our products to be brought down,” Ampoan lamented.
Early this week, Ampoan, four other tribal chieftains and several council members gathered at the hall of Barangay Bugsukan for the final touches on data “gaps” gathering in relation to the formulation of their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plan (ADSDPP).
Under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, indigenous peoples, through the assistance of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), shall formulate the ADSDPP, which serves as the community’s guide to managing its resources, including the mapping and delineation of ancestral claims.
The tribal chieftains represent the 16 municipalities covered under Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) 093, which received an assistance amounting to P5 million from the Agusan del Sur provincial last year.
But the bad roads, characteristic of most upland barangays in the city, are not the only setbacks that these tribal communities face in their quest for their right to self-determination.
Overlapping tenurial rights have become a pestering problem, too.
Datu Epifanio “Linintian” Guinsod of Barangay El Rio in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur, said the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has been encroaching on their ancestral domain through the conduct of cadastral surveys that started early this year.
“How come they are conducting a survey when we already have the CADT,” Linintian lamented.
Barangay El Rio has a total land area of 2,000 hectares, and according to Datu Linintian, “more than half of the area is encroached by the DAR”.
Linintian asked that the official document of CADT 093 be given to them now so they can use it to block organizations or individuals that encroach on their ancestral domain.
While the CADT was approved in 2008 by the NCIP en banc, NCIP-Agusan del Sur officer Veronica Lobood said it is presently at the level of the Land Registration Authority (LRA), which will then submit it to the Registry of Deeds for titling.
In Barangay Sta. Maria, Datu Ampoan said that migrants from Cebu, Iloilo and other parts of the Visayas have claimed lands that are part of their ancestral domain.
For the tribal leaders, the solution to this problem is the completion of the ADSDPP.
“If we can have this already, we can present this to whoever will try to enter our areas and negotiate,” said Datu Felipe D. Masbale, municipal tribal chairperson.
GIZ-Coseram, or the Conflict Sensitive Resource and Management Program, has forged a tripartite agreement with the NCIP and the province of Agusan del Sur “principally to provide technical assistance” to IP communities “to enable them to improve and enhance” the CADT and ADSPP process.
Irene dela Torre, COSERAM’s senior advisor, said the CADT process, including land titling, is “time consuming and expensive” and at the same time “highly conflictive and sometimes fragmenting the IPs.”
With the project, we aim to assist in “securing the land rights of the IPs in order to improve their fragile investment climate,” she said.
Governor Adolph Plaza sought the assistance of GIZ-COSERAM in 2011 after the provincial government realized that there is a need to address the concerns of the IPs.
GIZ-Coseram estimates that 60 percent of the province’s population consists of indigenous peoples’ tribes that include the Manobo, Banwaon, Higaonon and Bagobo.
“As a development organization, we find it interesting that the LGU has recognized this need to link with other agencies in order to address this long-standing conflicts in IP communities, especially CADT processing and ADSDPP [formulation],” she said.
The ADSDPP formulation was seen as a “pilot test” in terms of “adapting methods for data gathering and verification in conflict resolution of the IPs.”
NCIP’s Lobood earlier called this as data “gaps” gathering where the NCIP engages in informal talks with tribal leaders and council members.
As to the controversial overlapping of claims, she said that concerned government agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the DAR have been regularly informed of their office’s land titling and delineation processes.
Lobood said the key to solve the overlapping claims is to harmonize the functions of these agencies.
Message to government
A villager said she hopes that government will give attention to the potholed and knee-deep mud roads leading to their barangay.
“Our roads have been like these for decades and the government has not done anything to improve it,” Fe Villamor said.
Barangay Bugsukan is 10 kilometers away from the paved road of Barangay Pyaning, a 30-minute ride from the city proper.
While the government may have neglected them, residents said that the pervading logging activities caused the bad roads, particularly the “Saddam” trucks that go in and out of their community. (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)