Benguet Provincial Board asks Palace to defer PMA expansion
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Saying the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) should first get the consent of Ibaloys, the Benguet Provincial Board on Monday passed a resolution urging Malacañang to hold action on a proposed proclamation that would allow the military school in Baguio City to annex a portion of Tuba town.
The board acted on information that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had endorsed the expansion of the PMA reservation to include 105.8 hectares of land in Tuba where Ibaloys and other indigenous peoples (IPs) live.
The present PMA campus, known as Fort del Pilar, covers 373.13 ha on a forested hill at Barangay Loakan in Baguio.
The board resolution was prompted by a March 19 letter from IPs in Tuba that sought the intervention of Leonor Oralde-Quintayo, chair of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
The letter, which was forwarded to the provincial government, was signed by IP mandatory representative Tita Bugtong and “Inpan-ama” (leader) Andres Ligligan of the Tuba Ancestral Domain Indigenous Peoples Organization.
The elders said that before any proclamation was issued, a public consultation should be conducted and the free and informed prior consent of IPs in the area should be obtained in accordance with the provisions of the Local Government Code and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.
Benguet Gov. Crescencio Pacalso also supported the plea of the two IP elders, calling the issue a “matter of urgency that required prompt action.”
On Tuesday, Lt. Col. Reynaldo Balido, PMA spokesperson, said the academy’s officials had been invited to a consultation with Benguet officials but would comment only after they had received a copy of the resolution.
During a visit to Fort del Pilar in February, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, a member of PMA Class of 1970, said he saw no problem from the issuance of the proclamation since the “portion occupied by the informal settlers had already been excluded from the approved survey.”
He said granting the additional land would “assure PMA of a secure water source and help protect the area from intrusions, encroachments and other forms of adverse claims.”
The area is being used by the academy for training cadets on firing and assault course, among other things, he said.
Nearby lands and parts of the military reservation are being disputed as ancestral domains by clans belonging to IPs. —KARLSTON LAPNITEN
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