Bukidnon IP leaders assert rights in int’l-funded project

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News.Net/08 August) Leaders from indigenous peoples in Bukidnon signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for a project funded by the Asian Development Bank, and other entities to ensure protection of their customs and traditions and to express their cooperation.

Datu Migketay Victorino Saway led tribal leaders in the signing during the launching program of the of the P6.31 billion (US$154.1 million) Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP), which targets Bukidnon along with three other provinces in the Philippines. The DENR led the launching rites on August 7 at the Kaamulan Folk Arts Theatre.

An unsigned copy of the MOA showed that aside from Saway, 11 other tribal leaders were signatories, including leaders who were identified as “chieftains” of Bukidnon’s seven tribes. Datu Salimbangon Magdalino C. Pandian, the IP mandatory representative to the provincial board, was listed as chieftain of the Manobo tribe.

INREMP is a seven-year project focusing on watershed as a management unit of operation. It is funded by the ADB, International Fund for the Agricultural Development (IFAD), Global Environment Fund (GEF), the Climate Change Fund, and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

The DENR cited that the project will use community-based approach with inter-agency supportive mechanism to implement the project.

In an earlier press conference, DENR officials cited that the project aims to reduce and reverse degradation of watersheds in four river basins in the country, including the Upper Bukidnon River Basin covering six watersheds with a total land area of 479,871 hectares in 15 towns and three cities in Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental.

The indigenous peoples compose of 69 percent of the population in those areas, according to the DENR presentation to reporters.

Dr. Felix Mirasol, chief of DENR-Bukidnon, said after eight consultative meetings with the indigenous peoples, the IP leaders asserted among many that there has to be a cultural impact assessment study to be conducted before the project will be finally started.

In the launching, the DENR signed a total of seven memoranda of agreement, the rest with local government units concerned for the implementation of the projects in their areas.

Among the provisions in the MOA is the requirement for the formulation of an Indigenous Peoples’ Plan (IPP) “to ensure that implementation of the project will be in line with the principles and mandates of the Indigenous Communities Conserved Areas (ICCA).” The ICCA “promotes peace, empowerment and rights to self determination among IPs.” The IPP is a requirement stated in the ADB Safeguard Policy for Indigenous Peoples.

The signatory tribal leaders, according to the MOA, must also create an IP advisory council from the seven tribes to provide guidance and mentoring on customary laws and practices. The council must also recommend “appropriate action, plan, and policy” to be adopted by the INREMP’s Project Policy Management Council (PPMC). The PPMC, too, is supposed to have one member from the indigenous peoples.

The advisory council is supposed to review and recommend approval of all project proposals affecting the IPs “in order to ensure that community requested or community-initiated projects will be sensitive to the cultures and traditions of the indigenous peoples.

The MOA also stated that specific sections, provisions, or components for the indigenous peoples shall be considered in the formulation of plans such as integrated watershed and investment plans at all levels. This is to ensure that future programs and projects that will be implemented in their ancestral domains “will have no adverse impacts to the cultures, traditions, and institutions of the IPs.

The MOA also required project implementers to compensate IP individuals or IP communities “who may lose their social support systems or ways of life so that a project can proceed.” The compensation amount will be based on “mutually agreed” terms.

According to the signatories as stated in the copy of the MOA obtained by MindaNews, the MOA will serve as “free and prior informed consent” of the seven tribes of Bukidnon. But they set the condition that all programs under INREMP will be subject to a Cultural Impact Assessment (CIA) to be administered by the IPs to address and mitigate adverse impacts of the project towards the IPs.

Mirasol said the IPs committed to join the project and guide the implementers, “so they (implementers) will not go wayward in their implementation.”

The local government units likewise committed to shell out counterpart fund for the construction of roads that will lead to projects under the INREM project, Mirasol added.

The signatories of the MOA with IPs agreed to adhere to the five pillars of kinship, namely; mutual recognition and respect (Kilalaha ha Batasan), mutual sharing of information, transparency and truthfulness (Sayuda ha Batasan), Cooperation and co-stewardship (Buliga ha Batasan), mutual protection of all life (Uyaga ha Batasan), and mutual responsibility to help each other in times of need (Pabatunbatuna ha Batasan).

A source at the NCIP cited, however, that the NCIP still needs to validate the MOA in the communities for it to be considered a valid FPIC process.

Section 33 of the NCIP’s Administrative Order No. 3 Series of 2012, cited that the NCIP chair “shall sign the MOA in behalf of the NCIP as Third Party”.
“For projects where the Regional Director is authorized by this Guidelines to issue the corresponding certification precondition, the MOA shall be signed by him/her in behalf of the NCIP as Third Party,” a copy of the guideline posted online cited.

AO3 is the “Revised Guidelines on Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and Related Processes of 2012.”
Notably, no NCIP signatory was included in the copy of the MOA provided to reporters as of Aug. 7 even if the NCIP-10 regional director Roberto Almonte and NCIP commissioner Cosme M. Lambayon graced the MOA signing and launching program.

About US$42.5 million of the US$154 million-fund for INREMP is earmarked for Bukidnon. River basin allocation of around US$21 million is also allotted for Lake Lanao. The funds will be allocated for four components, namely; river basin and watershed planning, small holder institutional investments, capacity enhancement on river basin and watershed management, and project management and support services. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News.Net)