Subanen leaders assert control of ancestral land

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 Nov) – Leaders of Subanen tribe in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur want to secure their ancestral domain through confirmation of their indigenous political structure (IPS) and registration of their organization, a tribal leader said Tuesday.

Timuay Lucenio Manda, chairperson of Pigsalabokan Gokom de Bayog (United Tribal Leaders of Bayog) who was attending a national conference on land investments held here, said the tribe has complied with the requirements for IPS that will be submitted to the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP).

“What we want is to secure first our ancestral domain, especially the Ancestral Domains Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSPP), so that we can control those who will enter our territory,” he told MindaNews in Cebuano.

He cited the NCIP Administrative Order (AO) No. 2 series of 2012 or the General Guidelines on the Confirmation of Indigenous Political Structures and the Registration of Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations (IPO), which defines IPS as “organizational and cultural leadership systems, institutions, relationships, patterns and processes for decision-making and participation identified and accepted by indigenous cultural communities (ICC) or indigenous people (IP).”

The IPS shall be recognized as the highest governing body with the IPO as its technical arm, it adds.

The NCIP order was promulgated for the effective implementation of the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or RA 8371 and for other purposes.

Manda said among the documents required in the process of confirmation of IPS were genealogy survey, origin of the names of Bayog and villages, and who their ancestors were.

Other requirements stated in the order include written accounts not limited to customs and traditions, including the interfaced customary practices, social organization, basic social processes and access to resources.

Manda cited that they need to work on the ADSDPP, as provided by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, by which they will define the land uses such as agricultural, mining or forest area.

He explained that they will not allow the entry of a mining project unless the area of application is within their declared area for mining.

“We will provide the limitations,” he stressed.

He said his tribe does not categorically support nor reject mining investment, “but we are pro-development,” adding that so long as a project adheres to due process and does not demolish the IP communities.

Section 3 (Operating Principles) of NCIP AO 2 elaborates “development with identity” as the pursuit of ICCs or IPs to their collective identity in their economic, social and cultural development through their ADSDPP.

“It also embraces preservation of cultural values and institutions; control over their own development; and genuine consultation on all issues, programs and projects that will affect them,” it adds.

Manda noted that after the NCIP confirms their IPS and registers their IP organization, misrepresentation of the tribe will be prevented.

But he said they still expect that investors will continue to pursue their interests in the ancestral domain.

He said that although the confirmation of IPS and Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), which are still being processed, are only documents, “according to the law, the land is ours since time immemorial.”

“We always bear in mind that we are still part of the Republic of the Philippines. We are only asking that the national and local government will fully respect our rights as IP,” he said.

The Subanen tribe is applying for CADT of 23,000 hectares, comprising 18 villages and two sitios out of at least 37,000 hectares total land area of Bayog, Manda cited.

The group also calls for moratorium of mining activities within its ancestral domain until its political structure is established so that all members will be duly represented, especially in the process of consultation for free prior and informed consent (FPIC).

Beverly Besmanos, program officer of the Alternative Forum for Research in Mindanao, said establishing IPS is very important in fulfilling the FPIC.

“If the tribes are united and the IP structure is clear, the tribes will have a united voice in the FPIC,” she added. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)