The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on Thursday appealed to farmers and indigenous Ayta tribesmen to stop encroaching in government-administered land and clearing forests and building illegal settlements within the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the intrusion and introduction of unauthorized settlements violate the law, as well as an agreement between the Subic agency and the Ayta tribe on the use and disposition of tribal ancestral lands within the Freeport.
“Mapapagod lang po kayo sa paglilinis ng mga lupain at pagtatayo ng mga dampa kung labag naman sa batas ang inyong ginagawa. Babaklasin lang po ng mga may awtoridad ang inyong ginawa (Your efforts in clearing land and building shacks will simply be wasted if you’re activities are illegal. The authorities will simply dismantle what you build),” Eisma said.
“Matagal na pong may kasunduan tungkol sa mga lupaing katutubo dito sa Subic Freeport, at sana po ay sundin natin ito upang maiwasan ang kaguluhan (There has long been an agreement on the ancestral domain here in the Subic Freeport, and we hope you would honor it to avoid any problem),” she added.
Eisma also said the SBMA may be constrained to file legal cases against illegal settlers in order to protect government interest over the properties.
The SBMA chief issued the warning following the discovery of two new illegal settlements at the Tipo area of the Subic Bay Freeport near the Mt. Sta. Rita Naval Link Station and the Subic Bay Expressway (SFEX). Tipo, which is the location of the eight-kilometer SFEX and some industrial park projects, is a village within Hermosa, Bataan, and adjoins Dinalupihan town and Brgy. New Cabalan in Olongapo City.
A report from the SBMA Ecology Center said that in late February, inspectors discovered an undeveloped settlement near the SFEX tunnel, which consisted of some huts built in a newly-cleared 500-square meter area. The new clearing is located along the proposed rail alignment of the Subic-Clark Railway Project, said SBMA Ecology Center manager Amethya Dela Llana.
Dela Llana said that after a meeting with the Kalayaan Ayta community revealed that the unauthorized clearing was made by a group of tribesmen from the Iram Resettlement area in Olongapo City, her office referred the matter on March 31 to Nestorio Pablo, the indigenous people’s representative to the Olongapo City council.
The notice sent to Pablo said that the SBMA will demolish the huts and confiscate the felled bamboos, wood, and other building materials found in the area.
Eisma said the demolition was carried out last Tuesday, April 13, by SBMA workers backed by officers from the SBMA Legal Department and the SBMA Law Enforcement Department.
She said the SBMA also served a “notice to vacate” to farmers who have started a new settlement at Lot 2 near Mt. Sta. Rita. The notice was received on Monday by Wilson Villas, vice chairman of the group Filipino Farmers Center Internazionale (FFCI).
Eisma said that while the Lot 2 settlement was still uninhabited, some semi-concrete structures put up by the illegal settlers there point to an intent for permanent occupancy.
The SBMA chief pointed out that the SBMA has already filed in court a case against illegal settlers consisting of about 30 families affiliated with FFCI who have occupied Lot 12, an area at the boundary of the Subic Freeport and the Roosevelt National Park in Dinalupihan.
She said the SBMA gave the FFCI five days to remove their belongings at Lot 2 and leave the area.