Grant Us Our Ancestral Domain, Tribal Leader Asks

December 11, 2007 at 11:37 am | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

KABASALAN, Zamboanga Sibugay (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 11, 2007) – A tribal leader said granting the indigenous people’s legitimate claims for their ancestral domain would be an effective tool for empowerment.

Wilfredo Sanggayan, an indigenous people (IP) representative to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Legislative Council) of Sibugay province, said the other way of looking at the several ancestral domain claims is to view it as a tool of empowering the indigenous peoples.

Sanggayan is the first Lumad representative to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan nationwide.

Zamboanga Sibugay is also the first province throughout the country to have IP representative to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Compostela Valley province is second.

“By granting the indigenous peoples their legitimate claims for their ancestral domains is to allow them to manage and govern themselves,” Sanggayan said.

Some 35 tribal leaders last week appealed to the concerned government agencies “to respect their legitimate claims of ancestral domain in this region.”

In a recent assembly held at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, these tribal leaders also slammed what they called government “discrimination” against the rights of the Subanons in the peninsula.

The tribal conference dubbed “Glumpuk Nog Kobogolalanan Sog Pigsungan Nog Nawan (Assembly of Tribal Traditional Leaders of Zamboanga Peninsula) was part of the activities for the Mindanao Week of Peace, which started on November 29 and ended on December 5.

Early this month, Subanons from the three villages of Zamboanga City staged protest actions before government centers here.

“Our ancestral land is our kingdom where we have the chance to self-governance,” Sanggayan said, adding that part of his priority initiatives as Lumad representative to the provincial board is to undertake the titling of some 14 identified ancestral lands in Sibugay.

The provincial office of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) also held a seminar here last week about the rights of the IP to ancestral domains.

Margarita Baya, officer-in-charge of NCIP provincial office, said “we need to help the Lumad in reclaiming their lands.”

“Gani, dili na yutang kabilin ang gusto nato bawi-on kundili yutang nabilin (In fact, it is no longer the ancestral land that we wanted but just a portion of that land),” Baya told this writer in jest.

There are four ancestral domain claims that are now pending at NCIP. These claims are from the towns of Siay, Naga, Roseller T. Lim, and Kabasalan, comprising at least 80,000 hectares of land of the province.

Another priority initiative that will benefit the indigenous peoples in the province, according to Sanggayan, is the establishment of Sibugay Indigenous Peoples Economic Zone Cum Indigenous Park and Living Museum.

“But as of now, we are now working for the recognition of Lumad representatives to the 14 local Sangguniang of the province,” Sanggayan said.

Fourteen of the 16 towns of this province need Lumad representatives to the local Sangguniang as mandated by Republic Act 8371, also known as “The Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997”, according to Sanggayan.

RA 8371 mandates that “indigenous peoples shall be represented in all Sangguniang at all levels whose representatives shall be selected in accordance with the customs and traditions of the indigenous people concerned.”

Signed into law on October 29, 1997 by then President Fidel Ramos, the IPRA underwent many years of legislative study and deliberation before it became a law.It is the result of various consultations, consolidated bills related to ancestral domains and lands, and international agreements on the recognition of land/domain rights of the IPs.

In general, the IPRA seeks to recognize, promote and protect the rights of the IPs. These include the Right to Ancestral Domain and Lands; Right to Self-Governance and Empowerment; Social Justice and Human Rights; and the Right to Cultural Integrity.

Sanggayan pointed out that 14 of the 16 towns of Sibugay are inhabited by indigenous peoples with the Subanen tribe as the largest group.

The Subanen numbered around 1.3 million as of 2000 census scattered mostly in the provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Misamis Occidental, and Zamboanga City.

At present, according to Sanggayan, there are 11 local government units who had passed an ordinance recognizing the indigenous representatives to their respective Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

“But only seven of the 11 have formally accepted and installed an IP representative as a member of their local councils,” Sanggayan, who earned the distinction as the first IP representative to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan throughout the country, lamented.

”We will continue to reiterate our request to the different local government officials concerned concerning the representation of the indigenous people in the council as mandated by RA 8371,” Sanggayan said. “We are only asking what is due us.” (Antonio Manaytay)

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