CITY OF SAN FERNANDO ? Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said he has required legal merits as basis of talks on the claim of 508 Aeta families over 13,273 hectares in a former United States base land in Capas, Tarlac.
?Dialogue is always open. But what we do is set legal merits first because if we do not have legal bases, the dialogues will be useless,? Teodoro said when interviewed at the closing of the Asian Regional Forum-Voluntary Demonstration for Response at the Clark Freeport on Wednesday.
?I?m after the protection of the military,? he said of what he has stressed in meetings with officials of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Rolando Rivera, NCIP commissioner for Luzon, has credited Teodoro for ?opening the space for discussion? on the application of the Aeta group Labayku for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) in the 17,814-hectare Crow Valley gunnery range, a venue for war games between Filipino and American troops since 1999.
Labayku?s CADT claim, filed in 2004, has been stalled for almost four years after the Philippine Air Force, which was assigned to secure the area, objected to the conduct of a perimeter survey there, an NCIP report showed.
?The [Department of National Defense] informed the [NCIP] that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has recommended [a] denial of the NCIP request for the reason that allowing claim of the Aetas will impede the training and other hazardous military activities in the area,? said the report prepared in April.
The AFP also cited ?adverse security implications.?
According to the report, the DND ?invoked the existence of the reservation long before the effectivity of Republic Act No. 8371 [Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997).?
The DND cited the law?s Section 56 that guaranteed respect for property rights within ancestral domains.
The US 13th Air Force, based in the former Clark Air Base, had used Crow Valley, 22.4 km north of Clark, as bombing and gunnery range for the Cope Thunder program.
Also known as Zone C, the Crow Valley was not part of the 35,936 hectares reverted by the United States to the Philippine government in 1979. The DND got Zones B and D, the most agriculturally fertile, for a total of 18,715 hectares, or 52 percent of the total reverted area.
The University of the Philippines recommended Crow Valley to be part of the ?food bowl zone? of Clark and Subic.