MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 17 March) – Business magnate John Paul C. Perrine of the Unifrutti Group of Companies and the Hineleban Foundation agreed to submit to the guidelines provided by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for his engagement on reforestation and livelihood projects with the indigenous peoples.
In a meeting with officials from NCIP-Bukidnon and tribal leaders from ancestral domains in the mountain ranges of Kitanglad, Kalatungan, Pantaron, and Matigsalog on March 15 at a local hotel, Perrine and a team of executives discussed the proposed project and listened to NCIP officials explaining the free and prior informed consent process.
“We will submit to the process. There are no ifs,” he told the meeting, which he requested in a February 26, 2013 letter to Ma. Shirlene Sario, NCIP-Bukidnon officer. In the letter, he expressed their intent to submit to an FPIC using the NCIP’s 2012 guidelines.
Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) provided for the protection of indigenous peoples with the full exercise of their right to free and prior informed consent in the introduction of plans, programs, projects, activities and other undertakings that will affect them and their ancestral domains to ensure their economic, social and cultural well-being.
Perrine said they will push for “consensus” among tribal leaders of the different communities before proceeding.
The meeting came after at least 41 datus and baes filed a complaint before the NCIP Regional Hearing Office last month seeking a temporary restraining order against the “Sacred Customary Compact on Peace and Progress” signed by Perrine and “eight councils” of tribal leaders in the province, represented by Datu Migketay Saway.
The tribal leaders in their complaint cited that they were not consulted and that the provisions were not explained to them even if their areas were subjected to the agreement.
Signed in December 16, 2012 in Sungko, Lantapan, Bukidnon, the nine-page agreement said, on the fifth page, that among its purpose is to serve as compliance of the free and prior informed consent requirement in accordance with Customary Law and IPRA.
Datu Erwin Marte Anilaw Inlantong, chair of the Bukidnon Unified Tribal Development Council of Elders (BUTRIDCE), said nothing has changed even with Perrine’s statements in the meeting.
He added that they will allow the complaint before the NCIP-Regional Hearing Office to take its course.
“We will allow the hearing officer to determine its status now as it is already filed,” he added. Marte, authorized spokesperson of the tribal leaders who filed the complaint, said the meeting was only “exploratory” in nature and stressed it was not yet any step in the FPIC process.
Marte lamented the agreement between Perrine and Datu Migketay lacked consultations.
“We were surprised that there were already a series of consultations. But we were not even informed,” he added.
Marte stressed that Hineleban should have followed the guidelines in accordance with IPRA.
“The NCIP should be the third party in the agreement. The guidelines are the common grounds as it encompasses both the legal and customary grounds,” he added.
Marte said on projects concerning indigenous peoples, it has to be coursed through the NCIP, not any other government agency.
Datu Makapukaw Adolino Saway, one of the complainants and is older brother of Datu Migketay, told the meeting he is happy Perrine and his team were with the indigenous peoples.
“We have common goals to protect Mt. Kitanglad. But how do we know you are serious?” he added.
He stressed that the community consultations have to be done.
The elder Saway told MindaNews “we have to see how things are in the community consultations.”
Bae Inatlawan Adelina Tarino, one of those who has a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) in the area supposed to be covered by the project but was not consulted, told Perrine that it is always better to talk to the people instead of just one leader.
Hineleban Foundation, Inc. has proposed a “rainforestation” project along the buffer zones of Kitanglad and three other mountain ranges in the province dubbed as the “Program for Equitable Advancement of Rural Livelihoods” (PEARL) project, which covers both reforestation and livelihood projects for residents in the buffer zones.
Perrine told this reporter the French Development Agency has earmarked €15 Million (P795 million at P53 per Euro) for the project. He said that before proposing it directly to the agency, he obtained endorsements from different local government units and national government agencies, including the Regional Development Council.
But since the project involves areas within ancestral domains of indigenous peoples, Hineleban had to obtain FPIC as part of the requirements for the project to proceed.
Perrine added that their agreement with Datu Migketay will hold, adding that they chose to agree with him first considering the conflict between him and the tribal leader over Unifrutti’s use of resources within the ancestral domain of the Talaandig tribe.
Saway has no CADT over the area but asserts native title over the claim.
Perrine said “sometimes it is a blessing that the questioned agreement came with immediate conflict,” citing the outcome is a way to consensus.
Richard Macas, NCIP Bukidnon legal officer, explained to Perrine’s group the 2012 NCIP guidelines in obtaining a free and prior informed consent process.
From his presentation, two major types of plans, projects, programs, and activities are subjected to an FPIC process: those considered extractive, intrusive, or large scale and those considered non-extractive and small scale.
Both types require a full length FPIC process. Without adverse problems, NCIP estimates about 65 days to work on a full length process.
Perrine cited that they envision their project as community-initiated even if it is foreign-funded with Hineleban providing technical assistance and initial support. IP community-initiated projects would require only community validation, still an FPIC process, but takes shorter time.
“We will study the concept of community initiated, foreign-funded projects,” he said.
Sario said the path will not be fast, either, as the NCIP is still in the process of accrediting indigenous peoples organizations (IPOs), which is required in identifying community initiated projects.
Meantime, Perrine vowed to create a team to conduct consultations in all communities involved in the project eyeing to start where they see “no conflicts”. He also vowed to present the project before the NCIP commissioners sitting en banc.
Macas said they needed to present the project before the commission as part of the requirements in validating “community initiated projects.” (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)