Local knowledge on biodiversity in Pantaron Range might vanish along with flora and fauna

Source: 
Kalikasan PNE / KAMP statement
Date of publication: 
18 May, 2014

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) warned that the largely undocumented biodiversity in Pantaron Range might disappear, along with the indigenous knowledge of the Talaingod Manobos that have protected the forests of the mountain range over the past decades, if the displacement of the indigenous Lumad communities caused by the militarization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) persists.

This was among the major conclusions of the environmental group during their participation in a National Solidarity Mission (NSM) organized by national and local people’s organizations, progressive party-list groups, peace advocates, and human rights formations across various indigenous communities in the provinces of Davao and Cotabato. Kalikasan PNE was part of the team that assessed the area of Talaingod municipality in Davao del Norte, which is within the Pantaron Range.

“The Talaingod Manobos in Pantaron Range continue their decades-long active defense of their ancestral lands from military-backed development aggression, conserving their environment and knowledge of the land in the process. The intensified militarization by the AFP have caused massive displacement and rights abuses, which threaten the Manobo’s way of life and the land they have fought so hard to preserve,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE and a delegate to the NSM.

Biodiversity potential

The 12,600 square-kilometer Pantaron Mountain Range or Pantadon Biogeographic Subregion cuts across the provinces of Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Norte, and Agusan del Sur, covering 12.4 percent of the entire Mindanao.

One of the largest remaining old growth forests in the Philippines is located in the Pantaron Mountain Range. It covers 1.8 million hectares and supplies the water of major rivers in Mindanao mainly the Mindanao River, Pulangi River, Davao River, Tagoloan River and major tributaries of Agusan River. The natural forests of the region support immense biodiversity and links important breeding sites of the Philippine eagle at Mount Kitanglad and Mount Apo.

“Pantaron Range is a very critical watershed and one of the few remaining primary forests in Mindanao, with some of its hardwood species including Lamotan, Red Lawaan, Iron Wood, and Kamagong, among others. It is a known important link of breeding sites for the Philippine Eagle at Mount Kitanglad and Mount Apo. The Talaingod Manobos also benefit from Pantaron’s forests as it serves as their natural pharmacy where they source their traditional medicinal and herbal plants,” explained Bautista.

“Publicly available documentation of its natural heritage is scant, but the Talaingod Manobos speak of a variety of birds including three kinds of hornbills, and lizards and amphibians such as forest frogs and monitor lizards. They also shared that there are wild pigs including dwarf ones, civets, and monkeys including tarsiers,” Bautista furthered.

Threats of displacement

The NSM confirmed the reported series of intensified human rights abuses that began March 3 this year as the AFP went on a militarization campaign in the area as part of their Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency program. Reports gathered in the villages visited by the NSM said the Philippine Army engaged in several human rights violations (HRVs) such as looting, torture, sexual harassment, intimidation, destruction of farms and the desecration of the Manobos’ abodes.

The Talaingod Manobos collectively decided to evacuate their communities to avoid more HRVs by the military. They sought refuge in Davao City where various organizations and individuals, including Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, supported their cause.

“In the 1990s, the Talaingod Manobos already suffered from displacement by militarization from the security forces and military backing of the logging firm Alcantara and Sons (Alsons). Today, they are still threatened by the encroaching of Alsons through their Integrated Forest Management Agreement or IFMA that covers the entire 45,000 hectares of Talaingod. A host of large-scale mining corporations also have approved applications over the range,” Bautista pointed out

“The Talaingod Manobos under their organization Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon believe that it is these economic interests that are the real motive in the systemic displacement of their communities,” said Bautista.

Appeal for support

The national environmental network joined human rights group Karapatan and the indigenous people’s federation KAMP in supporting the calls of Salugpungan and other advocacy groups in Mindanao:

· Ensure the pull-out of all military troops in the communities in Pantaron Range;
· Investigate, prosecute and hold accountable the perpetrators of rights abuses against the indigenous communities;
· Provide just reparations by the perpatrators for any damaged home, source and means of livelihood of the people;
· Stop the attacks against schools and childrens in the area;
· Junk the repressive Oplan Bayanihan.

“The Talaingod Manobos who are now just returning to their lands are still in need of food, medicines, blankets and other materials in order to rebuild their lives. They need our support in filing complaints and lobbying against the military at the Commission on Human Rights, Philippine Congress, Philippine courts, and up to the level of the United Nations,” ended Bautista.

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Photos and letter of appeal available – contact Kalikasan PNE (karapatan [at] karapatan [dot] org)

Kalikasan PNEsecretariat [at] kalikasan [dot] net | Karapatan – karapatan [at] karapatan [dot] org | KAMPkamp_phils [at] yahoo [dot] com

Reference: Clemente Bautista – 0922 844 9787
National Coordinator
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: secretariat [at] kalikasan [dot] net
Website: www.kalikasan.net