Bukidnon tribes appeal to President Aquino to resolve ancestral domain issue

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By Anna Valmero

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA—Wearing traditional costumes, tribe leaders from Bukidnon tribes trooped to Congress to listen to President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) and air their plea on ancestral domain.

Chris Estrella, also called “Datu Gumawal” in the Matigsalog tribe, said they are urging the President to fast track the issuance of land titles to indigenous peoples (IP) in Bukidnon.

Isang hinihinling ng IPs ay maibigay na yung certificate of ancestral domain title para hindi na magugulo ng kung sinu-sinong papasok sa territorial boundaries at mapakinabangan ang lupa nila para mabigyan sila ng mabuting pamumuhay (We are clamoring for ancestral domain titles so we will not fall victims to intruders and create livelihood out of this land),” he said.

The disputed ancestral domain in Bukidnon measures 52,000 hectares of land but the National Commision on Indigenous People is yet to issue land titles.

Without land titles, outsiders can take advantage of esources within the boundaries of the Bukidnon IPs’ ancestral domain, including cutting down of century-old logs, mining of copper and zinc and agricultural expansion in forests of San Fernando in Bukidnon.

Wala silang (IPs) magawa dahil ang involved ay may mga link sa politicians (We can’t do nothing because they have links to powerful politicians),” said  Datu Gumawal.

The tribe leader added that the tribes agree to keep the land titles and have a communal ownership of the ancestral domain instead of allowing outsiders to develop the area.

Datu Gumawal stressed that IPs have an important role in the conservation of natural resources such as the forests of Bukidnon amid the disastrous impact of climate change.

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