Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat has expressed his unwavering support for the plan of the Ati tribe to occupy the land inBoracay Island, Aklan that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples awarded to them last year.
Baguilat said the Ati tribe owned the two-hectare property in Brgy. Manoc-Manoc at the southern tip of the 1,032-hectare island resort legally and historically. Thus it is just right that the tribe members be allowed to enter the property and build their new homes there.
The Ati tribe, however, has been prevented from occupying the land covered by their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title awarded to them in January 2011. Private groups have opposed the Ati’s claims and have started putting up structures in defiance of the order of the NCIP and the legal rights of the Ati.
“This has been a great injustice to the Ati tribe because this is one instance where historically and legally, the piece of land is theirs, so why can’t they occupy it? It is as if the CADT granted to them is useless,” said Baguilat, who chairs the National Cultural Communities committee of the House of Representatives.
“This is why I support their plan of self-installation lest they lose the little land that they have,” said Baguilat.
Baguilat has also urged President Aquino to intervene in the matter considering that the rights of indigenous peoples are being violated in this case and it seems that the NCIP has been sitting on the decision on the Ati claim even if it was the NCIP itself that awarded the title to them.
“This is going to be a test case of the determination of the NCIP to exercise its powers under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act to secure ancestral domain of the indigenous peoples,” he added.
The NCIP is set to soon issue a resolution to finally settle the dispute and while the decision is pending, the Ati tribe has been left with no choice but to stay on a one-hectare property that is also being claimed by politicians in the area.
Anthropologists say that the Atis had inhabited the island long before the earliest Visayan migrants came. However, they have been pushed away from their land as private investors streamed to the island known the world over for its powdery white sand.
Boracay Island is one of the country’s biggest draws for foreign tourists.
(Picture by Aklanforum.blogspot.com)