IPs from Tanay, Rizal seek PAO help over Masungi fencing issue
MANILA, Philippines — The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has coordinated with the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in Calabarzon in a bid to help members of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe complaining about the fences built over their alleged ancestral land in Tanay, Rizal.
In a Facebook post on Friday, NCIP’s regional office in Calabarzon said that they have already sought PAO’s assistance in line with the recommendations made by PAO chief Persida Acosta, regarding the complaints of the indigenous people (IP) from Tanay’s Barangay Cuyambay against the Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc.
NCIP was referring to the indigenous peoples’ grievances that they are no longer allowed to do normal day-to-day activities in the area, as Masungi’s operators allegedly placed fences near the IPs’ residences.
“Ayon na rin sa indorsement ni PAO Chief Dr. Persida Rueda-Acosta, nakipag-ugnayan ang NCIP IV-A sa Public Attorney’s Office ng Tanay noong March 8, 2023 upang mabigyan ng legal na representation ang mga katutubong Dumagat/Remontado ng Brgy. Cuyambay, Tanay, Rizal,” NCIP said.
(In accordance with the endorsement of PAO Chief Dr. Persida Rueda-Acosta, NCIP IV-A coordinated with the PAO in Tanay last March 8, 2023 to provide legal representation to the members of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe in Brgy. Cuyambay, Tanay, Rizal.)
“Sila ang mga katutubong direktang apektado sa pagbabakod na sinagawa ng Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc. na walang karampatang pagtupad sa FPIC (Free Prior and Informed Consent) process,” it added.
(They are the tribe members directly affected by the fencing activities done by the Masungi Georeserve Foundation Inc. without adhering to the FPIC process.)
One of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe members, Rogelio Doroteo, alleged that they have tried to adjust to what the Masungi’s management has been doing in the area, but lately, the activities have already obstructed their means of livelihood.
“Nang ipagbawal ang pagkakaingin, sumunod naman kami at bawal po talaga ‘yon. Ang ginawa ko na po naman nagtanim kami ng halaman, tapos habang nagtanim kami ng matitigas na punong halaman, nag-alaga naman kami ng baka, kambing. Subalit nang dumating na naman ang tauhan ng Masungi, kami ay binakuran doon sa daanan,” Doroteo said in a video message.
(When they barred land clearing by burning soil, we followed that because it is bad. What we did was to plant, and while we were planting robust trees and plants, we also raised cattle and goats. But when the people of Masungi arrived, they placed fences on our pathways.)
“Hindi pa rin po ako naniwala, humanap ako ng ibang madadaanan, pagkatapos, binakuran pa rin nila ‘yong dadaanan ko, subalit hindi pa rin ako na k’wan at naroon ang ikabubuhay ko […] humanap uli ako ng dadaaanan. Nang may nakita akong dadaanan na naman bago binakuran na naman at nilagyan pa ng CCTV,” he added.
(I didn’t believe that, so I searched for a new path. When I found one, they also placed fences, forcing me to find a new path around the forest. When they saw that I have a new path, they placed fences again and a closed circuit television camera.)
Doroteo claimed that things got heated when a supposed Masungi personnel reprimanded him for staying in the area and bringing his livestock there — as he insisted that the land is theirs.
“Ngayon, dumating ako doon, sinita na ako, may nakita na akong tao. Ang sabi niya, ‘bakit, ano’ng ginagawa mo dito?’ Ang sagot ko pa, ako na nga ay medyo mainit dahil sa init, sabi ko ‘ay bakit ako sisitahin mo, ako ang may-ari dito, ako pa ang sisitahin mo kung bakit ako naririto?’,” he narrated.
(When I was there, a Masungi personnel reprimanded me. He asked me what I was doing there, prompting me to ask also why he is apprehending me when I own the land.)
He also accused the Masungi personnel of asking for proof that he owns the land — to which Doroteo said he replied by saying that the trees and plants he planted are proof of his ownership.
INQUIRER.net has sought the side of the Masungi Georeserve Foundation over this issue but they have not replied as of posting time.
The said foundation is the private contractor assigned to take care of the 400 hectare georeserve in Rizal, which is considered a protected area. Last September, the foundation called on to government to protect forest rangers who are in danger due to harassment from several land claimants.
This was after a group seeking to occupy Masungi was found armed with several firearms, which local police soon seized.