By Aldwin Quitasol
Posted by (Bulatlat.com)
BAGUIO CITY ? “It is very hard and painful to think that you are going to be displaced from your place that was nurtured by your own ancestors,” said Gloria Abibuag at the dialogue with Baguio City Mayor Peter Rey Bautista and some city officials on July 6.
Abibuag and her companions are residents of an area claimed by the government as within the Busol watershed and forest reserve. Their houses are scheduled to be demolished from July 20 to 30 by the city administration.
The demolition is being carried out by the city after the Supreme Court denied the Busol house-owners’ motion for reconsideration of an earlier decision ordering their eviction from the watershed reservation.
Earlier, environmentalist groups and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as well as the Baguio Regreening Movement headed by City councilor Erdolfo Balajadia challenged the city to clear Busol of structures as they alleged that the residents there are polluting the major water resource of the city and the nearby parts of La Trinidad, Benguet.
Meanwhile, Anti-squatting committee chairman Melchor Rabanes concluded that the application of the Busol residents for ancestral land claims before the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) is hopeless as these may only be overruled by the newest Suprem Court decision over Busol. “It is a hopeless hope,” said Rabanes to the weary residents.
City administrator Peter Fianza said there can be no rights on Busol because it is a reservation, adding that if there are such claims, these are only claims and not rights.
Abibuag, an Ibaloi said indigenous people are always being pushed to the edge whenever land laws are applied, which usually results in their displacement. She said that their Ibaloi forefathers owned and nurtured the Busol area and Baguio until the Americans arrived and the Public Land Act was implemented over the land. Under colonial Proclamation 15 of August 27, 1922, Busol was established as a forest reservation and was declared excluded from settlement.
Before the Public Land Act and the Proclamation 15 existed, Busol was originally occupied by the Molintas and Gumangan clans. Abibuag is a member of the Molintas clan.
Johnson Panayo, a resident in that area said it is so funny to think that there are laws saying the rights of indigenous peoples like him should be respected and yet here they are being evicted from their places of birth. Panayo cited the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.
Under IPRA, the state shall protect the rights of the Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) to their ancestral domains to ensure their economic, social and cultural well being and shall recognize the applicability of customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain.
“What is the use of that law if it will not be respected after all,” lamented Panayo.
Abibuag asked the city officials where the city plans to bring them after the demolition and if they will be relocated. Mayor Bautista said they tried to look for possible relocation sites but they did not find any. He said that they tried Barangay Irisan but they found out that there is no available site
as it is already filled with squatters.
Abibuag and her group were advised by Fianza and Bautista to submit position papers prior to July 20 so that they can study if there is cause to stay the demolition.
Abibuag speaking in Ibaloi before her companions expressed dismay telling her fellow Ibalois how they, the original settlers of Baguio are being scrapped off the land nourished by their forefathers for generations. They sacrificed a lot even their own lives just to take care of the land so that the next generations will have something to inherit.
Abibuag said in an interview that they will not stop looking for possible remedies to save their homes. She added that they will spend their time producing the necessary position papers to stop the scheduled dismantling of their houses and pursue other legal ways so that they will live peacefully in their homes without fear of being displaced.