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A group of Pala’wan leaders asserted Tuesday, December 16, their bid to get an environmental clearance certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for their agro-forestry project located in the southern town of Rizal, Palawan.
In an open letter addressed to the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) signed by ten Pala’wan leaders which was given to the press, the natives stated how they have been struggling for years, mentioning their poor livelihood status and the consequence that comes from it.
“Sa nakaraang mga taon, labis na ang kahirapang dinanas namin. Marami sa aming mga kabataan ay payat at kulang sa pagkain. Ang mga tubig inumin naming ay nagiging sanhi ng mga sakit na ikinamatay ng marami sa aming mga bata at matatanda,” stated as they sought the endorsement of DENR Regional Director Henry Adornado.
“Tuloy-tuloy ang pagbagsak ng aming pamumuhay na nagdudulot ng matinding gutom, subalit ang kaya lang ninyong gawin ay mag-kuwento kung gaano kaganda ang bundok at kung gaano kahalaga ang punong-kahoy. Bakit hindi ninyo kayang sabihin na maganda rin an gaming mga pamumuhay?” the IP leaders wrote
They also expressed how they have struggled in processing permits and clearances for years just to ensure that the agro-forestry project would push through, at the same time saying that agro-forestry project that will be bankrolled by SOCResources, Inc., will boost their local community to become more profitable and progressive.
SOCResources Inc., formerly known as South China Resources Inc., is a company which aims in identifying large tracts of land suitable for agro-industrial development in MIMAROPA region.
The company originally proposed the agro-forestry project, specifically a coffee-farming project to the Pala’wan natives in Barangay Campong Ulay in Rizal town years ago.
When the project was suggested, the native Pala’wan people consulted into the CENRO Quezon office as the proposed area where the project will take place is located in the Core Zone of Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape.
This means that in order for the project to start, the area needs to be undergo the process of reclassification by the concerned agencies such as the DENR, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and PAMB.
In Januray 18 2018, PCSD issued a resolution indicating that the potential agro-forestry project site is finally reclassified into Tribal Ancestral Zone, following a set of land surveys. The only thing they needed to secure is an ECC from DENR in able to start the project, a requirement which they have been waiting until now.
Silico Valdeztamon, IP Mandatory Representative (IPMR), said that they have obtained an endorsement from PAMB in March 19, 2019 at Brooke’s Point Palawan and that they have been obediently abiding the processes installed by the environmental agencies.
“Kung pagbabasehan ang IPRA law, basta may pagsang-ayon sa mga katutubo ay puwede kaming magtanim pero dahil private company rin sila, nag-demand sila ng mga document kasi baka mapulaan din sila sa huli,” Valdeztamon said.
In February 2019, the Pala’wan natives also sent a letter to the DENR seeking for the issuance of an ECC but to their dismay, the DENR through their regional office, responded on August that they have failed to submit an environmental impact assessment (EIA), which they strongly denied
“Lahat na andoon sa checklist na ibingay ay na-comply na namin,” Valdeztamon said.
Meanwhile, in the open letter, their cause has been afully supportednd recommended by the local municipality of Rizal through Mayor Otol J. Odi.
“Ang proyekto naming mga katutubo ay inirekomenda rin ng aming lokalna pamahalaang bayan at barangay, pero maging ang rekomendasyon nila ay walang halaga,”
“Magtatapos na naman po ang isang taon, siyam na taon na ang nakaraan simula noong kami’y mag-umpisang mangarap,” the letter stated.