Tumandok IPs forced to vacate settlement in Boracay island

AdChoiceTV News — A number of progressive groups on Tuesday reported that some members of the Tumandok community, one of the original inhabitants of Boracay island, were forced to vacate their settlement in Puka Beach, Yapak on the same island.

Jolina Tupaz, Tumandok chieftain, led the tribe in defending their right to ancestral domain. However, the court reportedly did not heed their demands.

The Republic Act No. 8371 or the “The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997″ states that ancestral domains “refer to all areas generally belonging to Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous People (ICCs/IPs) comprising lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and natural resources therein, held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs.”

The law also says that the state shall protect the rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains “to ensure their economic, social and cultural well being and shall recognize the applicability of customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain.”

Groups said policemen conducted operations on Tuesday and forced them to vacate just three days before Christmas Day.

Groups condemn eviction

“Tuluyan nang kinamkam ang lupang ninuno ng mga Tumandok ng Boracay sa Puka Beach, Yapak, Boracay island upang maisakatuparan ang development project ng administrasyong Duterte sa nasabing lugar,” Gabriela Youth Laguna said.

(The ancestral land of Boracay’s Tumandok in Puka Beach, Yapak, Boracay island were possessed to pave way for the development project of the Duterte administration in the area)

A resident who refused to be named confirmed the incident to AdChoiceTV News and claimed that the force eviction was conducted without any land survey.

Under government guidelines, demolitions of homes need prior planning by the local government unit, which will include a census and physical survey of the area where people will be relocated from.

The community must also be given advance notice of the planned relocation and an explanation why it is necessary.

Progressive groups, meanwhile, condemned the eviction and called on the government to defend ancestral lands.

“Tahasang kinokondena ng Anakbayan LPQ ang pagpapalayas ng mga pulis sa mga ninunong residente ng Boracay Island. Ipinapakita lamang nito ang pagsasawalang bahala ng gobyerno sa mga katutubo,” Anakbayan Las Piñas-Parañaque said.

(Anakbayan LPQ vehemently condemns the forced eviction of ancestral residents of Boracay island by the police. This shows the disregard of the government to our indigenous people)

“Tahasang kinukondena ng Anakbayan Batangas ang walang konsiderasyong pagpapalayas sa mga Tumandok at pagsasawalang bahala sa kanilang mga kahilingan! Wakasan ang pagmamalupit at pagsasamantala sa mga katutubo sa kanayunan at sa kanilang lupang ninuno!,” the group’s Batangas chapter also said.

(Anakbayan vehemently condemns the inconsiderate eviction of Tumandok and the disregard to their demands! End the violence and abuse to indigenous groups and their ancestral lands)

This eviction comes almost a month after at least nine people — Filipinos and expatriates — were arrested in Barangay Balabag and were briefly detained for allegedly occupying or building structures in protected forest lands.

Recovery of Wetland No. 6

The Department of Agrarian Reform earlier said that the original inhabitants of the island, the Ati and Tumandok people, were moved to a 2.3-hectare walled community when the island was developed into a prime tourist destination in the early 2000s.

Last July, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Boracay Inter Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG) evicted 31 families belonging to the Tumandok Tribe as it cleared the 8.5-hectare Wetland No. 6 located at Barangay Manoc-Manoc of illegal structures.

They were transferred to lands awarded to them by the government in March.

In March, DAR Secretary John Castriciones said that indigenous people belonging to both the Ati and Tumandok communities in Boracay were declared as agrarian reform beneficiaries and were given Certificates of Land Ownership Award.

DENR Director Natividad Bernardino, who serves as general manager of the BIARMG, meanwhile, said the recovery of the Wetland No. 6 or the “Dead Forest” is in compliance with Executive Order (EO) 53 that created the DENR-led Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) to reverse the degradation of the world-famous resort island in 2018.

Through that EO, Duterte ordered the DENR “to relocate and demolish all establishments and structures encroaching on forestlands, wetlands and other water bodies in Boracay.”

The Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, DENR this month said clearing operations in the island will continue.

No demolition, eviction during pandemic

Barangay Yapak chairman Hector Casidsid on December 1 wrote to Malay Mayor Frolibar Bautista seeking an action plan on the demolition.

In his appeal, Casidsid cited the letter of the Presidential Commission for Urban Poor dated Sept. 29, 2020 furnished to them, which prohibited demolitions and evictions during the pandemic.

“In behalf of the underprivileged and soon to be homeless Boracaynons, I seek to inquire on your stand and response to the Executive Order 152 Series of 2020 directing No Demolition and Eviction during this time of great chaos,” the barangay captain wrote in a letter obtained by AdChoiceTV News.

“Please further enlighten these people of your plans and possible remedies to address and lessen their griefs and agonies. I demand for a tangible and concrete resolution from you being the local chief executive on the matters raised,” he added. — via Irvin Chua / AdChoiceTV News

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