Aeta tribal leaders assert control on ancestral lands

By Reynaldo G. Navales -
Date of publication: 
4 July, 2015

CLARK FREEPORTLEADERS of the different Aeta tribal groups in Clark have asserted that they are in control of their ancestral lands and not the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) or any other entities.

The Aeta leaders, belonging to the Mabalacat Aeta Tribal Association (Mata) issued the statement in reaction to the work stoppage order issued by the CDC against the proponents of a US$2 million sewerage and sanitary disposal facility in Mabalacat City.

The CDC has issued a cease and desist order against the L.C. Soliman Septic Tank Incorporated and TesuPhils Incorporated, which are jointly implementing the waste water treatment project.

In its letter dated June 29, the CDC informed the project proponents about “pertinent laws and circumstances governing the Clark Special Economic Zone.”

Tribal Chieftain Ruvielane S. Margarito said the facility is situated inside ancestral lands and that the tribal association decided to open their area for investments and projects that will help the Aeta communities.

“Ing project a ini uling siyempre lulub yapu keng kekaming ancestral domain. Kekami naman pung tribu, emi ne man pu tututulan yan nung makasaup ya naman kekami (The project is within our ancestral domain and our tribe does not oppose it because it will be of help to us),” Margarito said.

She admitted that the project should pass through a process called Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) which will originate from the indigenous people.

Mata head Roberto Serrano said his office has already sought the intervention of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to facilitate the FPIC.

The tribal communities will then coordinate the project to the CDC and other concerned government agencies.

Approval by the Aetas

CDC Vice President for Legal Affairs Perlita M. Sagmit stated that Clark Freeport covers lands formerly occupied by the Clark Military Reservation and its contiguous extensions for conversion into alternative productive uses for the promotion of economic and social development of Central Luzon and other parts of the country.

“Any and all development projects or undertakings within the [Freeport and economic zone] must be duly approved by CDC and/or the BCDA,” Sagmit said.

However, the government through the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples recognizes the ancestral domain within the Clark special economic zone.

“The IPRA mandates that all development projects and activities to be undertaken within the ancestral domain must pass through the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process to be facilitated by the NCIP,” Sagmit added.

A Joint Management Agreement (JMA) was forged between the CDC, NCIP, and the Aeta community wherein all agreements and undertakings within the Aetas ancestral domain must be screened.

The CDC official claimed that the investors started the construction of the facility sans approval from the state-owned corporation.

“You are hereby required to cease and desist and refrain from conducting any further activity relative to the project. Non-compliance on your part will constrain us to exercise CDC’s police power and rights as administration and development authority for the Clark Freeport and economic zone as well as its rights and privileges under the JMA,” Sagmit told the proponents.

However, officials of the LC Soliman Septic Tank Incorporated told Sun.Star Pampanga that tribal leaders of the Aeta community and Calumpang Barangay Chairman Jimmy Jimenez have approved the project.

The Environmental Management Bureau has also permitted the company in their proposed domestic wastewater treatment facility in the village.

Serrano, head of Mata, said he is in favor of the project because it will bring development to their community.