Bukidnon-Higaonons eye investors in ancestral domain dev’t plan

Datu Aligpulos Apolonio Timbangan, head of the Bukidnon Higaonon Tribal Association speaks during the public presentation of their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP)| Bukidnon News photo by Walter Balane

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/29 October) The Bukidnon Higaonon Tribal Association (Buhita) has planned to hold an investment forum for sustainable development for their ancestral domain as officials’ revealed proposed programs and projects of their ancestral domain’s seven development areas in unveiling ceremonies here Tuesday.

The forum is intended so investors and tribal leaders can meet for partnership and other deals, according to the tribe’s 2012 to 2016 Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP).

Land tenure mechanisms such as mapping of territorial boundaries among clans; and economic strategies like sustainable agriculture and eco-tourism were among those presented for the seven areas cited in the plan.

The Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title for Buhita’s 36,547.21 hectare ancestral domain was awarded in 2009 but the title is yet to be handed to them pending some requirements before the Land Regulatory Administration (LRA), Datu Aligpulos Apolonio Timbangan, Buhita president, said in the program held at the Freedom Park in Malaybalay City this morning.

Buhita’s ancestral domain, covering a total of 14 barangays, including 12 in Malaybalay City and two in Cabanglasan town, is touted to be one of the biggest ancestral domains in the city.

Aside from land tenure and economic development, the tribe also presented projects and programs for the environment, for organizational development, culture and tradition, and social, and infrastructure sectors.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr, one of those invited to give a response,

vowed to provide the infrastructure needs of the barangays covered by Buhita.

Unveiling rites| Bukidnon News

But Zubiri said Buhita needed funding to implement the ADSDPP.  One of his proposals is for the tribe to consider oil palm plantations in Buhita’s ancestral domain. He cited that Malaysian firms are looking for local partner to plant oil palm with initial financing from them.

Many of the tribal leaders welcomed the idea but Datu Timbangan, president of Buhita, said this will have to be discussed first among the 35-member council of elders.

Palm oil plantation is not in Buhita’s ADSDPP even if they have planned to organize an investor’s forum.

Carl Binayao, community affairs officer of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Bukidnon, reminded the tribe that the plan will still have to be assessed based on NCIP guidelines.

The tribe outlined among their sustainable agriculture plans the conversion to organic and diversified farming and the sloping agricultural land technology and the putting up of fishponds.

In the slopes of the ancestral domain, the tribe also intended to produce rubber.

They also intended to expand their production of abaca fiber and the purchase of abaca stripping machine to improve production of fiber.

In certain identified areas, the tribe also plan to produce coffee and banana for different clans.

The tribe also envisioned a community-based eco-cultural village identifying waterfalls like the Kinilatan Falls in Freedom, Cabanglasan town and the Kibalabag Dam for nature trekking, picnic and resort.“Included in the design for the development of these sites is the promotion of the culture of the Higaonon and the respect for the environment,” according to the summary of the plan presented to the public.

The tribe also presented alternative livelihood development program by the their women’s sector to develop their sustainable livelihood skills like mat and loom weaving, floor wax making, dress making, food processing, furniture and handicrafts making, native wine production, fish Production and Sari-sari Store.

For infrastructure, the tribe also identified that they needed rural electrification, farm to market roads, and bridges for easier transportation of products; solar driers for rice, corn, and other farm products; rice mill and thresher and corn mills and sheller so their products will not lose post harvest value.

They also identified infrastructure for their indigenous governance citing, among others, they needed three Tulugan or tribal halls for the council of elders and the School for Living Traditions for the education of their children.

The tribe also intends to do information and education campaign among their members covering organizational rules, their culture and also on biodiversity conservation.
As part of their thrust for the environment, Buhita also intends to conduct resource inventory and valuation of the treasures of their ancestral domain especially the forest for livelihood and so they could preserve and protect it.

The tribe cited the need for forest rehabilitation and the management of the protected areas.  About 34.2 percent of Buhita’s ancestral domain or 12,513 hectares is still primary forest while about 7,677 hectares are considered secondary forest.

Buhita also eyed organizational development program with the setting up of the council of elders and leaders in each of their 20 clan claim areas. The initiative would include regular meetings, training for financial management, and the acquisition of communication gadgets and means of transportation for better management of the ancestral domain.

As part of their preservation of culture and tradition, Buhita also planned to hold annual cultural festival to showcase culture and to set up School for Living Tradition.

For social services, Buhita cited the need to have a health care project to train indigenous health workers and also to process herbal medicines.

Buhita also proposed an IP scholarship project for deserving youth who want to pursue college education.

The women, too, were not left out in the plan with a gender sensitivity orientation to educate tribe about the protection of women and their rights. They also eyed an orientation on proper child rearing for more responsible mothers. Women from the 20 sub-territories or gaops, will also be trained on the processing of herbal, along with a market and enterprise study.

For young people, they have intended to organize annual traditional sports festival and anti-drug awareness campaign.

Timbangan and other tribal leaders cited the help provided by non-government organizations like Car Philippines, the Philippine Eagle Foundation, the Friends of the Philippine Environment, and the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development.  .

Buhita obtained its Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim in 1998, more than 11 years before they were awarded the CADT. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)