NorthCot Gov says declaration of ‘no build zones’ in quake-hit areas done without IP’s consent

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 25 November) — North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco has questioned the Mines and Geosciences Bureau’ (MGB) declaration of ‘no build zones’ in the areas affected by at least four powerful earthquakes last month, claiming it was done without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs or Lumads) in these areas.

She also asked MGB why it singled out areas in Kidapawan City that are the Lumads’ ancestral domain. Catamco is a Lumad herself.

“You know what?  There are areas in Metro Manila declared as earthquake-prone, yet, the MGB never declared them as ‘no build zones’. And why only here in Kidapawan City where we have vast hectares of IP lands?” Catamco asked.

There are at least 4,000 hectares of areas claimed by the IPs as part of their ancestral domain, the largest of which is located in Barangay Ilomavis with 3,000 hectares of IP lands.

Nancy Alaan Catamco, North Cotabato’s first Lumad governor. Photo from Nancy Catamco Supporters FB page

Catamco explained the IPs’ claim of their rights to self-determination and ancestral domain are embedded and protected under Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997.

“When it comes to (protection of the rights) of the tribes, it should not be done by just one (government) agency alone.  The National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) must be part of the process,” she said.

The governor wants to know what was the basis of the MGB for declaring IP areas as ‘no build zones’.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanolgy and Seismology (Phivolcs) also assists in the determination of ‘no build zones’ particularly along faultlines.

Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista said his office has nothing to do with the MGB’s declaration.

“It was the MGB’s call  There were so much damages in those areas and what they were after was the safety of our people, thus, the declaration was issued,” he said.

In October, the city was hit by four strong quakes with magnitudes above 6: On October 16, a Magnitude 6.3 quake struck early evening, followed by Magnitudes 6.6 and 6.1 on October 29 and 6.5 on October 31.

Data from the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (CDRRM) office showed the quake victims in Barangay Ilomavis came from seven puroks and sitios considered earthquake and landslide-prone: Barangays Perez and Balabag – all located in the hinterlands and part of the 700-hectare protected area in Mount Apo.

Catamco said that instead of declaring the areas as ‘no build zones,’ the government must help in providing the quake victims shelters or houses that are earthquake-resistant and should be built in areas near the IPs ancestral lands.

“Siyempre, kaya nasira ang mga bahay sa mga areas they declared as ‘no build zones’ dahil ang mga istruktura ay di matitibay.  At ang karamihan ay nakatayo sa mga landslide-prone. Hayun, ang daming nasira o halos lahat ng mga bahay sa naturang mga erya ay nagkaroon ng mga sira.  Pero ung ideklara ng MGB na ‘no build zones’ ang mga ito, yan ang gusto kong malaman” (Of course, the houses in the areas declared as ‘no build zones’ were destroyed because the structures are weak. And most were built on landslide-prone areas. So there, almost all of the houses in these areas were destroyed. But for MGB to declare these as ‘no build zones,’ that’s what I want to know), she said.

TENT CITY. At the backdrop of the Ilomavis evacuation site, the Mt. Apo range stands tall, but residents have reported landslides in the mountain range. MindaNews photo by JULES L. BENITEZ

Catamco re-assumed her post as Governor on Thursday, after serving a 90-day suspension for alleged corruption before she became a politician.

The governor immediately made an ocural visit to the quake-hit areas in Makilala and in Kidapawan City.

She assured the IPs that after her visits, she will set a meeting with the MGB, local government officials, Lumdad leaders, and all stakeholders in affected areas to determine whether there are enough reasons to declare those areas as ‘no build zones’.  (Malu Cadelina-Manar / MindaNews)