Morong Ayta tribe gets title over ancestral land in Subic Freeport

Written by
  • Mhike R. C.
  • 4 years ago

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — After 14 years of bargaining, and hoping and praying, the Magbukun Ayta tribe of Sitio Kanawan in Morong, Bataan finally got approval on their claim for ancestral domain over some 12,000 hectares of land straddling parts of Morong town and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ).

During the third and final hearing on the Magbukun tribe’s petition at the Subic Park Hotel here on June 18, the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIPen banc found their claim valid and passed approval of the same.

The application was approved by the seven NCIP commissioners namely: Chairperson Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo, Basilio Wandag, Norberto Navarro, Ramcy Astoveza, Dominador Gomez, Boi Era España, and Roy Dabuit.

The NCIP officials met with the Magbukun tribal council here to deliberate on the latter’s long-standing application for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), which would formally recognize the rights of the indigenous community over their ancestral land.

According to Rodelio Tamundog, tribal chieftain of the Magbukuns, they started applying for a CADT way back in 2004.

“It feels good,” an elated Tamundog said. “Now we have the freedom to decide on the land that we inherited from our forefathers and determine our own future.”  

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma, whose agency has operational control over a good part of the Magbukun territory, described the approval as a historic occasion for Subic Bay.

“It was also in June, 27 years ago, that most of the Ayta tribes in Zambales, Bataan, and Pampanga, were displaced and dispossessed by the disastrous eruption of Mt. Pinatubo,” Eisma noted.

“But despite their sad plight, they were with us in protecting and preserving Subic when the Americans pulled out of this former US Naval Base,” she added.

Eisma also called for further assistance form the NCIP in the processing of a similar title for the Ayta tribesmen of Barangay Cawag in Subic, Zambales, whose land also form part of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

The Magbukuns of Kanawan now has ownership of a total of 12,301.354 hectares. Of this, 11,769.054 hectares consist of hills and forests, while the remaining 532.300 hectares are water bodies.

NCIP officer in charge for Bataan Michael Baldonado said that a lot hard work went into the Magbukun CADT. He recalled the years spent on preparing the claim, presenting proofs, producing evidences, as well as researching the tribe’s genealogies and checking available historical archives.

Betty Fielder, who heads the Subic Indigenous People Assistance Group (SIPAG) which is assisting the Kanawan Aytas, said she foresees better prospects for the tribe now that the NCIP has recognized their right over ancestral lands.

SIPAG, Fielder added, will be helping the Magbukuns in formulating a joint management agreement with the SBMA for the development of Ayta lands covered by the Subic Freeport.  

The SBMA has entered into a similar agreement with the Pastolan Ayta tribe in Hermosa, Bataan, which was the first indigenous community within the confines of the Subic Freeport to be given a CADT.

The Pastolan tribe is now earning revenue for the use of their land by Subic Bay Freeport investors through remittances from the SBMA. 

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