The Aeta leader said that he supports the country’s national athletes because they are his countrymen. He said what he condemns is how easily the government dismissed their rights and the corruption and anomalies behind the SEA Games.
By JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG
MANILA — On December 2, Casamira Maniego received a letter dated Nov. 29 from Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) giving her seven days to leave her home.
Their land, where she was born and raised her own children, will serve as an expansion of the recently built New Clark City (NCC). It was where the Sports Complex for 2019 Southeast Asian Games stood.
“I could not feel anything but just pure anger,” the Aeta leader told Bulatlat in an interview.
The BCDA said in its letter that those who refuse to vacate waives their right to any compensation. It also said the BCDA would have to demolish any structure in the area after seven days.
In a statement, the BCDA further claimed that “there are no declared ancestral domains or Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT) in the area. Therefore, Aeta communities are not displaced.”
To which, Maniego replied, “Our ancestors lived there since the beginning. They just cannot treat us something like an insect that recently alighted there.”
Maniego said that the BCDA did not get their free, prior and informed consent, a requirement for projects in areas covered by indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain.
If the expansion project will push through, at least 500 Aeta families will be affected. The phase one of NCC, which housed the “state-of-the-art sports facility” already covered 9,450 hectares and displaced over 27,500 Aetas with no definite plan where to relocate them.
The newly built Sports Complex in New Clark City cost the country P9.5 billion.
Maniego joined other minority groups from different regions in a protest action at Chino Rotes (formerly Mendiola) bridge, Dec. 6.
The groups stormed the gate of the Department of National Defense earlier that day to protest rights abuses perpetrated by the state forces against indigenous communities.
Like Maniego, Edwin Danan, 75, stands to lose his home and farm because of the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone (CFEZ), which spans from Pampanga to Tarlac and where the NCC is part of.
His community’s livelihood depends mostly in planting rice, banana, and cassava. He describes the land as their supermarket without price tags.
“If they proceed to take away our land, we’re sure we’d be gone too,” Danan said.
He cited a local proverb that says, “Take a way a fish from a spring and surely it will die.” “The same goes for us,” Danan said. “Take us away from our ancestral lands–our livelihood, our home– and the government’s only hope for us is to die in another foreign land.”
Danan said Aetas are not against development but he said that one must question if the proposed projects of the government would not benefit the people.
“What benefit will the buildings give us?” he asked.
“If they only consulted us for the ‘development’ we need, we’d say what we need first and foremost is land to till,” Danan said.
“What do those businessmen know about the Aetas and farmers need? Nothing!” he said.
The Aeta leader said that he supports the country’s national athletes because they are his countrymen. He added that what he condemns is how easily the government dismissed their rights and the corruption and anomalies behind the SEA Games. Bulatlat.com