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CA upholds indigenous people’s claim to land

Benjamin B. Pulta
07/13/2011 [ ]

A ruling by the Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the awarding of more than 22,000 hectares of land and sea made by the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) in favor of the Tagbanua Indigenous Cultural Community in Palawan (TICP).

In its decision by Associate Justice Josefina Guevarra-Salonga, the appellate court denied the petition filed by the provincial government of Palawan questioning the ruling which awarded the Tagbanua a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).

Associate Justices Mariflor Punzalan Castillo and Franchito Diamante concurred.

“It bears stressing that our disposition herein does not touch upon the validity of the NICP resolution which became the basis of the subject since to do so would in effect allow a collateral attack on the legality of its issuance,” the CA decision stated.

“For this reason, the efficacy of the issuance of the subject CADT as contained in the resolution must be raised in an action expressly instituted and challenged for that purpose,” it added.

CADT is the title to the land and the sea that have sustained the cultural tribe for centuries.

The Tagbanuas were able to define the boundaries of their ancestral domain on a map through the use of satellite equipment provided by a Manila-based non-government organization.

The CADT grants the Tagbanua the right to manage the area and preserve its marine and land resources.

After the proclamation of Calauit Island as a national reserve in July 1967, the Tagbanua community was relocated in the nearby islands of Halsey and Burabod located in Culion, Palawan.

The relocation was by virtue of a Resettlement Agreement that the Tagbanuas forged with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Calauit project which created an animal sanctuary was established after by the government and the island in 1985 jointly managed by the Conservation and Resource Management Foundation, Inc. (CMF) and the Presidential Committee for the Conservation of the Tamaraw (PCCT) under a joint management contract between the two parties.

Sometime in 1986, the relocated Tagbanuas returned to Calauit Island but were later transposed to Mulang Island. On June 1987, they returned and settled in the island.

The Tagbanuas then formed the Balik Calauit Movement (BCM) and its members filed a complaint before the Presidential Commission on Human Rights.

In 2003, the Tagbanuas of Calauit Island, through its representative Juanito Pio Lledo, filed a petition for identification, delineation and recognition of ancestral domain claim and for the issuance of CADT, before the Regional office of the NICP.

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