Kidapawan water district sues IP rep for alleged encroachment on Mt Apo’s watershed

KIDAPAWAN CITY(MindaNews / 29 Sept) — The Metro Kidapawan Water District (MKWD) has filed charges against an Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representative (IPMR) from Kidapawan City who led a group of tribal people that allegedly encroached on a watershed area at Mt. Apo.

MKWD general manager Stella Gonzales said that two weeks ago, IPMR and ex-officio councilor Raden Igwas fenced off the area consisting of about 600 hectares, at Barangay Perez.  The area, according to Gonzales, is source of potable drinking water for thousands of households in the city and nearby Matalam town in North Cotabato.

During a barangay consultation on Saturday, Gonzales showed photographs to residents of Barangay Perez where a signage states: “This is the Property of Rodolfo Y. Gantuangco.”

Gonzales accused Igwas of fencing off the area and putting the signage.

Gantuangco is former mayor of Kidapawan City.  Accordingly, the Igwas clan sold the land to Gantuangco and in turn sold the area to a Manila-based businessman.

“How come IPMR Igwas is claiming such land if the MKWD has prior rights over it?   The area is considered watershed.  We’ve been in the place since the 1950s,” Gonzales said, adding that the other party’s claim of ownership started only this year.

MKWD legal counsel Christoper Cabilen, concurrent city legal officer, said the area was sold to a doctor-turned-businessman who wanted to construct a 600-hectare resort.

“This is not about the IP rights over their ancestral domain.   No.  This is about selling the lot to an investor so that a swimming resort could be constructed in the area.  Their intrusion to the area is, by all means, questionable, since it is a watershed, that’s why a case has been filed,” said Cabilen.

Mayor Joseph Evangelista called for a barangay consultation in Barangay Perez on Saturdayand among those who attended were MKWD manager Gonzales, Cabilen, barangay Perez chair and his council, and several department managers of the city government.

Evangelista said he monitored two weeks ago the presence of 15 armed men who called themselves ‘Bagani,’guarding the area.  The mayor said he wanted to know if the firearms used by these Baganiswere licensed or if these people have license to carry guns outside their residences.

In the meantime, Gonzales said her office is bent on pursuing the case against Igwas despite appeals from a tribal group and from the barangay council. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/ MindaNews)