Subanon farmers protest Ecozone ‘encorachment’ on ancestral domain

The Subanons allege that 9,000 hectares of the 15,000 hectare Ecozone are their ancestral domain.

The group first staged their assembly in front of the Ecozone Office in Barangay San Ramon then proceeded to the regional office of NCIP and the Office of the Sangguniang Panglungsod (City Council).

The protest-rally, dubbed as “peaceful assembly and cultural presentation,” collectively brought the sentiments of the Subanon people in the city against their so-called “toughest struggle on their claim for the ancestral domains.”

“Our ancestral domain is a matter of life, heritage and history which was taken away from us, cuts away the heart of our existence,” the statement signed by the tribal leaders from the mentioned villages said.

The group said the mass action is the their way of expressing their realities, hopes and aspirations, and their assertion of their rights as IPs towards their ancestral lands. “Reclaiming what is left remains to be our toughest struggles because it is continuously denied and deprived (from) us” the statement read.

The signatories include Timuay Tuno Bernardo, Timuay Rafael Pandalan and Timuay Bakil Gumandao of the three Subanon-dominated villages.

But Georgina Yu, Ecozone Chair and Administrator, denied the group’s claim, adding that areas the Subanon are claiming had been legally designated to Ecozone through Presidential Proclamation 1099 signed by then President Joseph Estrada.

“As much as we (Ecozone Administration) are concerned, we are simply abiding by the law. We observe the rule of law and the legal basis of it is through that proclamation,” she said.

“We follow legal basis here and we have papers that support our stand,” she added.

The group also decried what they claim to be the “unreliability” of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) to protect their rights. NCIP was created under IPRA, which is supposed to be responsible for formulation and implementation of policies, plans and programs of government to recognize, promote and protect the right of the IPs.

Among these rights are the controversial Right to Ancestral Domain and Lands; Right to Self-Governance and Empowerment; Social Justice and Human Rights; and the Right to Cultural Integrity.  (Nung Aljani/Mindanews)