Avila supports CBFMA application of Tawan-Tawan folk

Jun. 01, 2007

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Councilor Leo Avila has thrown his support to the desire of the hundreds of forest occupants of a part of Mt. Tipolog in Tawan-Tawan, Baguio District to manage the area through a community-based forest management agreement (CBFMA).

In a hearing conducted by the city council committee on environment and natural resources that Avila chairs, the councilor assured the CBFMA applicants of his endorsement.

He said the endorsement is based on the confidence and belief that the people can make CBFMA work this time. Avila said he will author a resolution to also get the nod of his fellow councilors to back the application.

I am wondering whats keeping the application too long when this area is supposed to be given to you, after all you have been in this place for the longest time already, Avila said.

I believe that if the application will be granted, the forest occupants will be all the more enjoined to actively work for the protection of the environment because only through that will CBFMA can sustainably work. We can even make this one a model, Avila said.

During the committee hearing, the possible conflicts about the CBFMA application were clarified including the identification of the Mt. Tipolog as a protected area. But Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer Napoleon Paje stressed that allowing the CBFMA application could mean assured community-initiated protection of the area.

It is not a conflict to anything. In fact, it will even strengthen efforts to protect the environment because the people will be primarily the frontline of defense against destructive forest activities and developments, Paje said.

The National Commission for the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) is also set to come out with a separate resolution endorsing the application as most of the applicants are members of a Lumad community in Tawan-Tawan.

And the residents are happy about this recent development. Pedro Bolasito, president of the Mt. Tipolog Bantay Kinaiyahan Farmers Association, said the endorsement that they will get from the authorities is a positive development that boost for their desire to protect their tenure in the area.

Dako among pasalamat nga kami nakita karon sa atong otoridad. Ang among buhaton karon mao ang pagsiguro nga dili mapasipad-an ang Mt. Tipolog kay kini magpasabot nga among panginabuhian adunay siguridad, Bolasito said.

The application of the group came after the cancellation of the Environment Department of the Industrial Tree Plantation Agreement (ITPLA) that covered 1000 hectares of the land currently occupied by lumad and non-Christian settlers.

Bolasito, in his letter to the Cenro, said their application for a CBFMA is an assertion on our part of claim as stewards of this place. The ancestors of the lumad have been here long before the settlers camethe place is considered the life of the indigenous peoples.

Bolasito also said that lumad and new settlers who have survived through farming in the area could never allow anyone to intrude and operate there. What the community is trying to protect is the sanctity of the place, which is also identified as a conservation area.

When the community urged the DENR to cancel the ITPLA of a local businessman, their fight was anchored on their desire to protect the environment. They also feared being dislocated which apparently could cause them their livelihood.

We hope we still get the same support from them. We are also asking the support of the city government on this. Mt. Tipolog is a very important place for the lumad and the settlers and we all hope that they will all see this, Bolasito said.

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