Aeta folk suing Zambales municipal execs for meddling in tribe’s affairs
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Leaders of four Aeta villages near the crater-lake of Mt. Pinatubo in Botolan town in Zambales province are suing reelected Mayor Doris Maniquiz-Jeresano and several local officials for allegedly violating the tribe’s right to govern their ancestral domain, according to the Aeta representative in the Regional Development Council (RDC).
Ernesto Juliano Sr., indigenous peoples’ representative in RDC Central Luzon, said the dispute arose after Jeresano took over the tourism program managed by the Pinatubo Aeta Multi-Purpose Cooperative, on behalf of the villages of Villar, Burgos, Moraza and Belbel, until March this year.
“Only one discussion was held seeking our free and prior informed consent [to the local government’s plan to collect P700 from tourists going to the volcano’s crater-lake] but they immediately took over the program,” Juliano said.
Jeresano denied Juliano’s accusations, saying there had been consultative meetings with the officials and tribal leaders of the four villages.
“Everything was done above board [and we followed] the right process. We had six or seven dialogues with the cooperative and we consulted all village officials and tribal chieftains,” Jeresano said.
She said she was not aware about the complaint but noted that Botolan town must generate income from tourism activities around Mt. Pinatubo’s crater. Without the consent of the four villages and the cooperative, the mayor had included seven more villages as recipients of the 30 percent (P210) share of Aetas from the total amount charged to tourists, Juliano said.
Jeresano said: “It is not only the cooperative that should benefit from the fees. Other villages must also receive income [from tourism activities].”
Since Botolan has been receiving its share from the tourism fees, Aeta families have been employed “to keep the place clean and safe,” she said.
A resolution approved by the town council on March 18 prescribed P100 as ecotourism fee, P350 as environmental protection fee and P250 as ancestral domain preservation fee. It sets a fine of P2,000 for tourists who do not pay the fees.
Listed as recipients of the 30 percent proceeds are Barangays San Juan, Malomboy, Poon Bato, Owaog, Maguisguis, Nacolcol and Palis. These villages are not covered by a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT), Juliano said.
Issued by National Commission on Indigenous Peoples on Nov. 9, 2009, the CADT spans 15,998 hectares in the four villages that straddle the crater-lake as well as portions of the Zambales towns of Cabangan, San Felipe and San Marcelino.
The seven villages were not identified in the resolution that authorized Jeresano to enter into a memorandum of agreement with Villar, Moraza, Burgos, Belbel and the Mt. Pinatubo Ancestral Domain Association for a joint management agreement on the ancestral domain.
Juliano said the four villages used to get a share of P100 from the P450 that the local government of Capas, Tarlac, collects from every tourist who passes the Sta. Juliana route on the way to the crater-lake. Tonette Orejas and Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon
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