Aetas to receive title to domain at Mt. Pinatubo
Thursday, 14 January 2010
BY KATRINA MENNEN A. VALDEZ REPORTER
Chieftain Carlito Domulot raises the title given to them together with his aeta tribes as they receive their ancestral lands.
After being driven out of their ancestral lands nearly two decades ago by the furry of an erupting Mount Pinatubo, some 7,000 Aeta families will receive today title to their own mineral-rich domain.
After the 1991 eruption, the previously nomadic indigenous people have resettled around Zambales province—many through the help of various organizations, including the Rotary Club of Makati North. That club donated several hectares in Botolan, where the Aetas now plant crops and fruit trees today.
And this morning, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples was to formally hand over the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) covering the entirety of Mount Pinatubo, including the 3-kilometer wide crater lake, to Aeta tribe leaders led by chieftain Carlito Domulot, also chairman of the Lubos ng Alyansa ng mga Katutubong Ayta sa Sambales (Lakas).
“Finally, our prayer to ‘Apo Namalyari’ has been answered,” Domulot told The Manila Times, referring to their deity.
He added that their ancestors have fought for this even before the time of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
The total area they were granted is 15,984 hectares, which will be shared by the thousands left of the four tribes. Many others have left, assimilated into other communities.
The ancestral domain title covers the villages of Burgos, Villar, Moraza and Belbel in Botolan and portions of the towns of Cabangan, San Felipe and San Marcelino—all in Zambales, north of Manila.
Peace of mind
Chieftain Domulot said that he was looking forward to having peace of mind, because having the land title will protect them from others—including foreigners—from exploiting their land without compensation to the indigenous tribes.
He added that in the past, the Aetas had to contend with mining companies, loggers, and recently with tourists who earn from Mount Pinatubo but do not compensate the local tribes.
The Pinatubo, according to several exploration studies conducted by the government and foreign and local investors, are believed to be rich in white gold, nickel and chromate.
According to laws on indigenous peoples, ancestral domains are lands and natural resources occupied or possessed continuously by indigenous communities in accordance with their customs and traditions since time immemorial. This means that the Aetas had to establish that they have been living at Mount Pinatubo even before the Spaniards landed in the Philippines.
The laws also provide that the indigenous peoples have the legal right to collectively possess and to enjoy the land and its natural resources to the exclusion of others.
Ancestral domain titles are not awarded to an individual or corporation, rather to a certain community or indigenous group.
Excited about farming
Tubag Jugatan, a 29-year-old Aeta, told The Times that he was looking forward to returning to Mount Pinatubo, adding that he plans to plant vegetables and fruit trees and sell the produce to local markets.
In meantime, though, he has to stay in Mambog village, Bihawo (nearly 50 kilometers from the volcano), because his 5-year-old attends school there. Jugatan added that he hoped that a school would be established near Mount Pinatubo so his whole family could move back for good.
To make life sustainable around the volcano, he said that the Aetas have all agreed to conduct “forest rehabilitation,” since the eruption in 1991 and unabated mining and logging have devastated the land where they derive their livelihood.
Jugatan said that they have studied the situation and have development a plan—each of them planting 200 trees a day. He added that this was their commitment to their descendants and most of all to “Apo Namalyari.”
Protecting their culture
For Letty Gomez, 48, thoughts about going home give her encouragement about preserving their culture and heritage. She is chairman of the “Paaralan ng mga Aytas sa Zambales” (School of the Aetas in Zambales) and leader of “Kababaihan ng mga Ayta” (Women of the Aetas).
She told The Times that they conduct theater plays not just for tourists but also for their fellow Aetas, particularly the younger ones, so that they will not forget their roots and their way of life.
When they go home, she said that younger Aetas would appreciate those programs more, because rather than seeing the acts on stage, they would actually be living in that environment.
Noel Dumulot, a fourth-year law student at Ramon Magsaysay Technical University, said that having the land title was just the beginning of their bright future.
He is among Aetas who received scholarships from the Rotary Club of Makati North, which is now helping provide sustainable livelihood programs.
He also told The Times that they were not worried about Pinatubo erupting again, adding that they have strong faith that their “Apo Namalyari” will not forsake them.