Tribal chief to DAR: keep off our ancestral domain

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/01 August) – Portions of a Matigsalug-Manobo ancestral domain may have already been covered by Certificates of Land Ownership Award issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform without the tribe’s knowledge, a tribal leader said.

Datu Roelito Gawilan, chair of the Federation of Matigsalug-Manobo Tribal Councils Inc. last week told the Bukidnon provincial board he received reports that portions of their ancestral domain have been awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries in the southern towns of Kitaotao and Kibawe.

The ancestral domain covers 102,324.8186 hectares and straddles Bukidnon, Davao City and Arakan Valley in North Cotabato, and was issued a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) on October 31, 2003.

Gawilan said lands in their ancestral domain have never been sold or given to any migrant settlers since the 1975 Matigsalug-Manobo rebellion following the conflict with “scrupulous ranchers.”

“We just wanted to be clarified about this issue because we wanted to evade future problems regarding land ownership,” he added.

“We deny that that we have encroached into the ancestral domain,” said Jessie Apita, officer in charge of the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office in Kitaotao.

The area, he added, was outside the CADT as identified by the Land Management Bureau, which issued the CADT in the first place.

He told MindaNews nothing was irregular with the issuance of the CLOA for a 132-hectare area to the group of Rogelio Pilandas, in Pagan, Kitaotao.

Gawilan feared that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples sent no representatives during the geodetic surveys conducted in the run-up to the CLOA issuance.

Ma. Shirlene Sario, NCIP provincial officer, denied that the area was within the CADT. She cited that the NCIP and the DAR officials had met on the issue to clarify things.

But she admitted that the NCIP failed to send a representative to the surveys.

“We failed to do that, we have no geodetic engineer in our NCIP provincial office, only in the regional office,” she told the provincial board.

Sario cited a 2003 joint DAR and NCIP order suspending land acquisition and distribution in contentious areas.

She added she had no idea about the CLOA for 125 hectares of land issued to a group of agrarian reform beneficiaries in Kibawe town.

“The CLOA has not been issued,” another DAR official told the provincial board. “It is still being processed.”

Gawilan said they have all the reason to be alarmed because of the history of poor coordination between government agencies concerned with land management especially with regard to ancestral domains.

He cited the building of mountain resorts within their ancestral domain as an example.

“The DAR, NCIP and DENR should coordinate because we are the ones who suffer the problems inside our ancestral domain,” he said in the vernacular.

Gawilan said the issuances should also be made known down to the grassroots. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)