Palawan tribe wants in on protected area
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Indigenous communities inside the protected area of Mt. Mantalingahan in southern Palawan are demanding inclusion in the Enhanced National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-Nipas) law governing protected areas, contradicting the stance of the provincial government to exclude them and four other sites in Palawan from the proposed measure pending in Congress.
The Palaw-an tribes, in a public hearing called on Thursday by the local government unit, expressed concern over the local government’s insistence that the proposed E-Nipas law exclude Mt. Mantalingahan and four other key protected areas in the province.
Tribal leaders said since Mt. Mantalingahan’s declaration as a Nipas site through a presidential proclamation in 2009, their way of life has improved because of the management and protection of their area. They cited among their benefits improved harvests and adequate water supply as a result of regulations to protect the forests within the 120,000-hectare declared protected area.
“We have felt the respect we deserve, including the recognition of our rights, culture and our way of life as Palaw-ans,” said Noli Vasquez, a Palaw-an leader, during the public hearing held in Brooke’s Point, Palawan.
“If we are not part of the E-Nipas, we can be assured that our land will continue to suffer from exploitation,” he said.
He was referring to instances in recent years where some municipal governments around Mt. Mantalingahan revised their land use classifications to allow mining in areas previously declared as off-limits to exploitation.
“It is clear from the public hearings that the people do not want to be excluded from E-Nipas,” said Bishop Edgardo Juanich, head of the Catholic Church in the northern Palawan diocese.
Earlier, the municipality of El Nido expressed support for the Senate bill, authored by Sen. Loren Legarda, which seeks to speed up legislation protecting areas covered by the existing Nipas law.
The provincial government supports the House version of the E-Nipas bill that excludes Nipas sites in Palawan.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.