Our Response to NCIP Region IV-A’s Letter, dated 08 March 2021

March 25, 2021 3:21 pm

Planning with the Dumagat-Remontados of Cuyambay

 

We have received the show cause order from the NCIP Region IV-A dated 8 March 2021 and our legal counsel has already responded to it appropriately. We vehemently deny the allegations therein and strongly take exception to these unsubstantiated claims. In fact, it was the NCIP IV-A itself which informed us in a meeting on 8 February 2021, that their alleged findings were raw and incomplete.

While we have good reason to believe the promotion of this document is part of a continuing harassment by Rublou Inc. and Green Atom Corporation, private business entities with vested and incompatible interests in reforestation sites, and whose actions we exposed and strongly opposed, we take these unfounded allegations seriously and wish to reiterate the following:

1. The Masungi Georeserve is first and foremost a conservation project which has been recognized globally. It is exclusively located within titled properties. The Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) itself respects and excludes in its operation titled properties and property rights prior to the effectivity of the act, pursuant to Sec. 59 thereof. Nonetheless, the Foundation has always sought to work closely with surrounding communities, especially the Dumagat-Remontados of Cuyambay, Tanay.

2. To demonstrate good faith and collaboration between the Foundation and Dumagat-Remontados, our shared desire for this genuine partnership to continue for years to come, and cognizant of the increasing politicization and exploitation of IPs and our environment, the Foundation and the Dumagat/Remontado ICC of Cuyambay, Tanay executed a joint Paglalahad at Saksihan dated 3 March 2021, signed by the Foundation’s Project Manager and the IPO President (“Pangulo ng Tucduan”) of the Dumagat/Remontado ICC of Cuyambay, Tanay (see below).

3. The Foundation vehemently denies that it has ever forced the eviction or relocation of any IP resident from his or her ancestral domain in Tanay, Rizal. In all its undertakings, the Foundation has consistently recognized and respected the key role of indigenous communities in the conservation and sustainable development of the environment and it therefore strongly takes exception to this unsubstantiated finding.

4. It must be noted that the Foundation was made aware of an Antipolo ICC and its application for an Ancestral Domain title over part of the Upper Marikina Watershed Protected Landscape only after a private claimant, Rublou Inc. together with its subsidiary Green Atom Corporation, implicated the ICC in the fencing and deployment of armed guards in vast lands in the watershed and reforestation sites on 25 October 2020. Rublou Inc. revealed its chairman, a retired police general, bought more than 300 hectares of the ancestral domain and protected area from Antipolo IPs and informal settlers. We have been informed that buying or selling of forest lands and/or ancestral domains are prohibited by law and that there is no instance that the area could have been made into legitimate private property.

5. After initially denying any collusion with Rublou Inc., unfortunately, certain members of the Antipolo ICC with the lawyer and co-owner of Rublou Inc. filed various harassment cases against the Foundation and its officers. Based on dialogues with elders, the rightful decision-makers of the tribe, and many of the tribe members, we found out that this was done without the elders’ consent. Unfortunately, these are typical tactics used by quarry firms and large-scale land-grabbers. In fact, we were informed that Green Atom Corporation has most recently allegedly employed similar tactics in Laoac, Pangasinan, where it has a Waste-to-Energy incineration project.

6. Nonetheless, we continue to be in genuine dialogues with elders and tribe members, as we have been in the past several months, and a Memorandum of Agreement with the Antipolo ICC, together with the NCIP, is already in the works.

7. Absent any real and substantial basis backing the alleged “factual” findings of the NCIP Community Service Center of Tanay, Rizal, the Foundation can only conclude that the Show Cause Order dated 8 March 2021 was sprung on the Foundation in manifest disregard of basic factual considerations and administrative due process. Nonetheless, it is the hope of the Foundation that, with its response to the Show Cause Order, the NCIP Regional Office IV-A will be enlightened and see clearly through the matter.

 

Dialogues with elders and members of the Antipolo Dumagat-Remontados ICC

 

The Foundation expresses its utmost commitment to continue genuine communications between and among the Foundation, the relevant ICCs, and the Honorable NCIP, as it looks forward to more fruitful collaborations with the Dumagat/Remontado ICCs of Tanay, Rizal and Antipolo, Rizal in the near future.

 

Joint visit to the NCIP Region IV-A with Dumagat-Remontados of Antipolo

 

If anything can be learned from these recent experiences, we hope these shed more light on the politicization and challenges faced by environmental defenders and indigenous people at the frontlines – some of whom are in the most remote and inaccessible parts of the country. Together, we will not cower, but only become stronger and smarter for our environment.

 

Dumagat/Remontado ICC: Paglalahad at Saksihan