Drilon seeks review of law on indigenous people’s rightsBy Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Franklin Drilon wants a review of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources reported that its implementation may have already caused a massive reduction in the size of country’s forests.
In a news briefing after presenting the DENR’s P23.6-billion budget for 2013 to Drilon’s committee on finance, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples has issued certificates of ancestral domain and ancestral land titles involving 4.27 million hectares.
Paje said that most, if not all, of this land now covered by NCIP are part of the country’s primary and secondary forests.
“Since these have already been titled, does this mean that this land is already alienable and disposable? If these have already been titled then we will declare the forests in this country to be just eight million or close to nine million [hectares],” Paje said.
Drilon said this situation was not anticipated by the lawmakers who drafted the law.
A case questioning the constitutionality of the law before the Supreme Court ended in a 7-7 deadlock at a time when the tribunal only had 14 members. Thus, Drilon said, the government proceeded to implement the law.
“The legal situation is that under the Constitution, you cannot title forest land and it is about 15.8 million hectares…. Now the NCIP has issued titles to 4.27 million hectares,” Drilon said.
“Consequently, the holders of this title can claim that they should be entitled to cut the forest, to issue permits to mine, to give licenses for the use of the water resources… all actions, all rights pertaining to ownership,” Drilon added.