Sama tribe opposes demolition order on Samal IslandBy Ayan C. Mellejor
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Some 60 families from the Sama tribe on the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos) have been ordered by the local government to demolish their houses located within the 80-hectare shoreline of the island city’s three districts that have been categorized as “danger zones” under Republic Act 7279, or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992.
The Sama tribe families were given notices to vacate the shorelines of Barangays (villages) Balet, Camudmud, Tagbay and Pigasaan by April 3. So far, the families, particularly those from Tagbay, had already received a second notice, signed by their village chairman Cirilo Pasaje.
But tribal leaders are opposing the demolition, claiming that the areas are part of their ancestral domain and that the processing of their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT)) is ongoing. They also questioned the government for categorizing the affected areas as “danger zones” and alleged that the move was just a front for its real intention to sell the land to private investors.
Datu Octaviano Colong said they should never be evicted from their ancestral land while the CADT processing is ongoing. The Sama tribe was among the early settlers of Samal island.
In September 2010, the Sama Indigenous Cultural Community filed an application for CADT before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The application also covers villages along the coastline.
Ching Dumanhog, also a Sama tribe representative, said the community was never consulted by the government on the demolition. “We stand for our rights over the land because this came from our ancestors. We were never selfish to the people,” Dumanhog said in Cebuano.
Dumanhog showed disappointment over the building of shoreline barriers, preventing them access to the sea.
The Sama tribe, which recently joined the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Conference for Peace and Development (MIPCPD), said they would like to cooperate with the government in its peace and development projects, particularly in developing the lands where the indigenous community has been living, into eco-tourism areas as part of the MIPCPD advocacy of “cultural tourism.”
Tonette Guevara, MIPCPD public relations officer, said the relocation of the Sama families to upper areas of Igacos would separate them from their primary source of income and food – fishing.
“This is a violation of their rights because by nature, culturally, the sea is part of their way of life,” she said.
Igacos City Administrator Cleto Gales confirmed the impending demolition order for 15 families in Sitio (settlement) Pigasaan in Barangay Tagbay because they were already occupying part of the “setback area” owned by the state that must be freed from any structure, and categorized as danger zone.
“The city government has to look after their public welfare because we don’t want them to remain in danger zones,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
Gales said a relocation site, a walking distance from the present area, would be provided with the help of the private sector.
Gales said the move followed procedures with three multisectoral public consultations conducted on February 22 and 29 and March 9.
He said that of the 15 households to be affected by the relocation, four have been resisting.
But he denied claims that the government would sell the area to private investors.
“It is a malicious accusation because the barangay’s plan identifying the area for fish landing has been in place long time ago,” he said.