Displaced IPs in Bukidnon town hopeful of return to community | Inquirer News
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Displaced IPs in Bukidnon town hopeful of return to community

/ 12:15 PM August 06, 2021

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY––Hope has been rekindled among close to a thousand families belonging to the Manobo-Pulangihon tribe of Bukidnon province after the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) took steps to award them an ancestral domain title covering over 900 hectares of land.

Arnel Angcosin, secretary-general of the Kiantig Manobo-Pulangihon Tribal Association, said the NCIP provincial office had told them that the titling process was underway at the central office.

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The tribal group recently met for a dialogue with the provincial government, the NCIP, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the status of their ancestral domain claim and the prospects of their return to their community in Barangay Kiantig Butong in Quezon town.

“We are optimistic that we can finally go back to our homes, to our ancestral land. We hope it won’t be long,” Angcosin told the Inquirer over the phone.

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Armed men, believed to be security personnel of an agribusiness firm, drove the indigenous families out of their community in 2017.

Dire condition

The company has premised its occupation and use of the 995-hectare land on a Forest Land Grazing Management Agreement (FLGMA) with the DENR.

With nowhere to go, the families set up makeshift shelters on the side of the road with no running water, electricity, and a stable source of livelihood.

Angcosin said they have also rarely got help from the government.

The situation has gotten so bad that parents have to tie ropes to their young children’s feet so they can’t wander off the road and get hit by passing vehicles, added Angcosin.

“Our children have suffered the most. Many of them have gotten sick due to poor living conditions. Diarrhea and fever were among the common ailments among our children as we were forced to drink contaminated water. It’s that bad,” Angcosin lamented.

Expired FLGMA

A 2019 report by the international nongovernmental organization Global Witness linked the killing of tribal leader Renato Anglao to the dispute over that land in Quezon town.

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The situation began to turn in the tribe’s favor when the FLGMA expired in 2018.

Angcosin noted that provincial environment and natural resources officer Vergilino Alima admitted in January 2019 that “the DENR has lost jurisdiction over the property” and pointed to the NCIP as the one “that has exclusive authority to manage and dispose of the above-mentioned property.”

Angcosin said the Bukidnon provincial government, NCIP, and DENR have assured the displaced families that actions have been taken to facilitate their return to their claimed ancestral domain.

“We can wait as long as we know that we can legally go back and live again in our ancestral land,” Angcosin said.

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TAGS: ancestral domain title, award, Bukidnon, Manobo-Pulangihon tribe, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, NCIP, Regions
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