“Pinagmalaki natin ang mga katutubong kultura sa opening ng SEA Games sa New Clark City pero tinatanggalan naman natin sila ng lupa at kabuhayan,” said Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday as she called for an investigation into the displacement of Aetas and other indigenous communities caused by the New Clark City [NCC] Development Project.
Senate Resolution No. 257 was filed by Senator Hontiveros early this week urging the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities to conduct a probe in aid of legislation. The said resolution noted that “there is an estimated 15,000 local farmers and 20,000 Aeta and Abelling indigenous communities likely to be affected” by the said project under the Bases Conversion Development Authority or BCDA.
“Development should not come at the expense of the rights and welfare of indigenous communities and of the environment,” Hontiveros urged. “Hindi tunay ang pag-unlad kung may paglabag ito sa karapatan ng mga katutubo at ng kalikasan,” she added, lamenting reports of ‘hectares and hectares of green land’ being converted into concrete.
In November, an eviction notice was issued to the Aeta families of Barangay Aranguren, in Capas, Tarlac by the BCDA to give way to the construction of a road connecting Clark International Airport to NCC.
However, Hontiveros claimed that indigenous communities in the area is protected by Republic Act No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA). While the BCDA claimed that there are no ancestral domains in the area, the Akbayan Senator said that this “obscures the fact that IP communities have always faced enormous difficulties in obtaining official documents of ancestral lands,”
“The difficulty of obtaining official documents to prove ownership has impeded the capacity of our indigenous people to protect their lands,” Hontiveros explained. “This is a failure of the bureaucracy and not of IP communities,” she added.
The resolution also detailed that the Aeta community in the area has made the effort to apply for Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles or CADT in 1999, 2014 and again in 2019 for 18,000 hectares in Capas, Tarlac.
BCDA has maintained that it followed due process by consulting the Capas local government, and that they are offering a financial assistance package amounting to Php 300,000 per hectare or Php 30 per square meter.
But Hontiveros said that financial compensation is not enough. “We need to understand that it is not just homes and livelihood that are being taken away from them. For IP communities, their cultural identity is tied to their lands,” Hontiveros explained. “Ang lupa nila, extension ng pagkatao nila ‘yan at hindi lang basta-basta kinukuha at binabayaran,” she furthered.
“Honoring and cherishing our indigenous cultures and cultural communities should not be merely paid lip-service,” Hontiveros said. “We need to ensure that development comes in a way that indigenous people, cultures, and the environment are protected and remain sustainable. We need to build greener and smarter cities that include everyone,” she concluded.