By Hwaa Irfan
Bit by bit, as a global awakening recognizes the virtues in old ways, old patterns, the Laws of Nature as representative of a sustainable future, common sense stands a chance in a quagmire of global crises.
As the Philippine government recognizes something about the indigenous peoples of the Philippines, the Mangyans/Batangans because it means a sustainable future for the Philippines as a whole, the list of protectors of global diversity slowly extends.
The Philippine government has adopted the Sustainable Traditional Indigenous Forest Resources Management Systems and Practices of the Mangyans, the indigenous peoples of the Mountain Province. A copy of the original was received by Mayor Anthony Wooden on behalf of local officials for the 24th Cordillera Day Celebration on July 15 2011. This represents the first kind of recognition in any form of the Mangyans. For the Mangyans, it is a recognition of who they are, their communities, and the way they manage their resources.
Unfortunately, one waits with avid trepidation of any governmental steps towards illegal logging, for wood serves not only the building, paper and furniture industries, but supplies much need fuel as well as foreign currency. A log ban has been in place to protect all endangered forests, yet allowing for sustainable forestry. The temptations are great because of the thousands of jobs that are created indirectly, but once the forests are devoured there will be a permanent reduction in unemployment.
Exports worth US$ 1bn a year are compromised, but without a forest there will be no exports at all!
Wooden thanked President Aquino III with a series of pleasantries, the result of which one wonders if there is serious reason to doubt the governmental ‘adoption’ of indigenous forestry practices, and reminded Aquino III:
“We are also happy to report to all of you, especially to his Excellency, President Aquino, that last year we have intensified our indigenous practices to accelerate the production of seedlings and for a synchronized tree planting in support of the President’s billion tree program. Just this June 25, during the celebration of the Philippine Arbor Day, all the indigenous communities of Tadian also participated in a synchronized tree planting activity, wherein we planted a total of 49,388 trees”
The Batangas which is known for its beauty and attractiveness as a tourist spot, is located southwestern of Luzon in the Philippines. It has 31 municipalities and three cities. Most of the towns are surrounded with water making it a popular tourist attraction, and a great weekend get-away for Filipinos. But this natural bounty still exists, because of a proactive conservation management practice by the Mangyans. What we know of Filipinos today are the descendents of Spanish (occupying force) and the Mangyans who are an indigenous people still living and thriving today. They have their own spiritual beliefs rooted in shamanism, language, and cultural beliefs. There are 7 distinct tribes.
The Community Forests
Philippines has a remaining forest cover of about seven million hectares, or less than one fourth of the country’s land area. The government has given indigenous communities the right to make use of the country’s remaining forest land through Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title CADTs. But it was not always like this!
The country’s trade in wood, legal and illegal has prospered from without consultation from the Mangyans. By adopting Mangyan practices which have been passed on from generation to generation, the government hopes to emulate Mangyan success across the nation, but Mangyan success, comes with care, lores, commitment, and action of intentions that have been masterfully passed on from generation. In the western Mountain Province towns were able to harvest lumber in a controlled manner without encroaching on watersheds and forests. This may not meet the demand for wood, but that is been precisely the problem, that globally we have learnt to live to a point of excess that is outstripping nature’s ability to sustain mankind’s greed.
This mistake was made in 2007 when the government laid claim an almost treeless forest, which the Mangyans of Manobo had used to save the Philippine Eagle from extinction and called it a wildlife reserve. Under Mangyans care, that forest was conserved and protected from complete obliteration being sacred to the Mangyans who protected the forest from further encroachment by illegal loggers. Students and researchers were free to visit and learn more about the forest. However, the government did not consult the community who had applied for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act 1997.
Many conservation practices fail because they lack the indigenous knowledge. The non-Timber Forest Products Exchange program account for this as follows:
“We noticed that many of the conservation efforts failed because the local community is not involved”
“Usually in the past, you had that connotation that when [they say] ‘forest preservation,’ it’s off limits to people. It’s quite a Western type of concept”
The Zoning and Land Use Policy Act would allow the Mangyans to play a more substantive role in planning the use of their ancestral domains.
“Philippines: Government Recognizes, Adopts ‘Batangan’ Of Mt. Province”.
See, D. “DENR Cites ‘Batangan’ Forest Management.” http://www.gmanews.tv/100days/story/218745/special-reports/listen-to-forest-dwellers-rights-groups-urge-denr
“A Nationwide Ban or Moratorium on Logging: Its Impact on Wood-based Industries and the Country Position Paper of the Philippine Wood Producers Association.”