Support for Boracay tribe growing

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ILOILO CITY—Supporters of the Ati tribe on Boracay Island have appealed to the claimants of the land granted by the government to the tribe to withdraw their opposition to the tribe’s ownership of the property.

The tribe’s supporters, in an online petition, also appealed to the claimants to allow the indigenous peoples’ community to build houses on the land.

The petitioners called on property claimants Ulysses Rudi Banico, Gregorio Sanson and Richard King to drop their claims and opposition to the tribe’s ownership of a 2.1-hectare property in Barangay Manoc-Manoc occupied by 32 families or at least 200 Ati tribe members.

“This is but too little a consolation [for these] simple people who used to have Boracay as their own little paradise before [investors and tourists] came to this beautiful island,” the petition said.

The petition had 577 signatories including those from other countries as of noon of June 19.

The property is covered by a certificate of ancestral domain title  issued in 2011 by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to the Ati tribe.

The NCIP and anthropological studies have supported claims that the Atis were the earliest settlers on the island but were displaced and driven away, especially starting in the 1970s when the island started to become a top tourist destination and attracted investors.

Ati tribe supporters have started building permanent houses for the community in April. The housing project was initiated by Assisi Development Foundation Inc.

But on May 3, the Regional Trial Court  (RTC) Branch 5 in Kalibo, Aklan, acting on a motion of Banico, ordered the tribe and its supporters to stop erecting permanent structures on the property. The order, issued by Judge Elmo del Rosario, also directed the Aklan police to enforce the court ruling.

The petitioners said the houses were essential for the tribe with the onset of the monsoon rains.

Banico has a pending petition for injunction at the Kalibo RTC  against the NCIP. Sanson has also filed cases against the issuance of the title claiming that he bought the disputed property on Sept. 25, 1973.

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