By LYN V. RAMO
Indigenous Peoples Watch
QUEZON CITY – A score of Aeta families are holding their ground amid threats of an imminent demolition by virtue of a request from a prospective quarry site operator in a resettlement site in Floridablanca, Pampanga.
The said site is in the Aeta territory in Floridablanca town, which recently acquired a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and has since been a show window of her administration’s implementation of various programs including the “poverty alleviation” package.
“Sitio Balendalag in Barangay (village) Nabuclod is home to 40 Aeta families,” said Katribu Partylist spokesperson Nelson Mallari, who is also the party’s second nominee. A resident of said barangay, Mallari recounts that the Aetas collectively remember Nabuclod as a site for large Aeta gatherings, especially during the martial law era, when deposed dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos would order that mountain people from Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac be herded in one place to “prevent being caught in the crossfire with the rebels.”
The barangay, a 100-hectare area which became a resettlement site after Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1993, is the subject of proposed quarrying operations by a still-unnamed company allegedly owned by one Tony Pascual, according to Mallari.
Pascual reportedly bought the property last year from former Mayor Felix Isip, who allegedly acquired the property from Aeta families after living among them for several years before becoming mayor of Floridablanca.
“He might have bought the property, but not the residents there,” Mallari said.
The 20-hectare contested quarry site, part of Sitio Balendalag, is covered by the Floridablanca CADT, Mallari claims. Although the area was part of the site opened for homestead and at the time of Marcos titled under Presidential Decree No. 27, it remains a part of the Aeta ancestral domain, he asserts.
“Katribu Partylist shall see to it that the peoples’ right to their ancestral domain is not trampled upon by quarrying and mining operations,” Mallari said.
Records at the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp or National Federation of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines) show that Pismpan Copper Mines Inc., allegedly owned by a certain Jovencio Dizon, is also threatening another Aeta community in Brgy. Kamias, Porac.
A petition paper asking the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to cancel a memorandum of agreement (MoA) that village officials reportedly signed with Pisumpan in October last year has been submitted. The said MoA was a precondition for exploration on Mt. Negron in Porac.
According to Mallari, the said copper mines covered some 8,000 hectares in the 1980s. After the passage of the Mining Act of the Philippines in 1995, however, the coverage increased to 11,000 hectares. It was operating only some 450 hectares before, he said. (Bulatlat.com)