President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, together with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) officials, awarded on May 27 a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) benefiting 454 Aeta families in Floridablanca, Pampanga.
The CADT No. R03-FLO-1206-057 for the Aetas’ ancestral land came 12 years after the establishment of the NCIP.
The title covers 7,440.10 hectares in San Marcelino and Brgy. Batiawan in Zambales and barangays Mawakat and Nabuklod in Floridablanca, Pampanga.
“This is the first time clean ancestral domain titles were distributed by the NCIP,” said director Salong Sunggod, NCIP Region 3 director.
Sunggod added that all nuisances from the titles have been removed. “Other claims to the ancestral domain have been settled already,” he said.
Sunggod also said that the 1,423 Aetas who will receive the titles would not face counter-claims after these have been issued to them.
Aetas are pleased to finally receive the title. “We are very thankful because we have waited so long for this. We are thankful because finally, they gave importance to our title,” said Parham Santos, an elderly Aeta from Floridablanca.
Security and protection
Aetas find security, protection and legitimate ownership from their newly-acquired land titles.
“We feel more secure that we finally have the CADT,” said Carlito Dumulot, chairperson of the Bukluran ng mga Katutubo sa Luzon (BUKAL).
Dumulot added that they faced a lot of difficulties fighting for their land. “People still want to claim our land even if we are already here, are entitled, and making good use of it,” he said.
Santos said the importance of CADT for the IPs cannot be underestimated. “CADT guarantees protection of our rights to our ancestral domain as mandated by the IP Rights Act,” Dumulot added.
The challenge is no longer to obtain their land but how to make full use of it.
“We still demand delivery of support services from the government in order to fully develop our ancestral lands,” Dumulot said.
Santos added that they do the best they can for their lands: making it fertile, planting crops, treating produce with organic fertilizer. She said they also need water systems, and education for proper farming to make full use of their lands.