Sagada elders call for sustainable forest management

By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
www.nordis.net

SAGADA, Mountain Province — Elders of this highland town moved for the strengthening of the traditional practices in forest and watershed management. These age-old practices, they claimed, would maintain a sustainable environment which is their contribution to contain climate change.

SAGADA BEGNAS. From the papatayan(sacred ritual area), the elders go to their dap-ay Losban for the more elaborate ritual and celebrationof begnas, a thanksgiving for bountiful agricultural harvest and sustainable environment. Photo courtesy of Othmar Gulian
The traditional ownership of forest is generally communal, where the community members have the obligation for its protection, management and sustenance. There are also clan owned forests known as saguday where clan members can utilize the forest products particularly for shelter, according to the elders.

The rules for the utilization and regulations of forests are discussed by the elders through their dap-ay, an indigenous socio-political system where elders gather and discuss community affairs, including sanctions for the violations of forest-related rules, explained Tigan-o Dugao, an elder from Ankileng, a southern village of this town.

Even ritual practices for the sustenance of these forests and watersheds are decided by the elders in the dap-ay. “Ub-ub ritual requires the sacrifice of a pig where elders pray to appease the spirits of the dwellers of the spring to keep the waters continuously flowing for the community,” explained Dugao in an interview.

The Sagada-based NGO, Montanyosa Research and Development Center, shared that elders identified threats to the communal ownership and utilization of forests and watersheds. Among those that they identified are the privatization of the communal forests by having them tax declared by individuals. Even communal springs are targeted for individual utilization.

Lakay Bagsingit Solang of Tetep-an Sur, an eastern village of this town, shared that communal watersheds and forests in Lamagan and in their village are being targeted for individual tax declarations. The same is said to be the case in Ankileng village.

Even the individual-inspired utilization of spring water weakens the concept of communal ownership and unity. “Hosing water away from the source should  not be done,” MRDC quoted from Lakay Binas-o of Dagdag village of this town.

But the elders of these town wanted the noble customary practices for a sustainable watershed and water management’ strengthened.  In fact, they encouraged the youth’s active participation in the forest and watershed management.

“The people, particularly the youth should not lose heart in asserting their collective rights to the very source which provides water for their needs and livelihood,” Bagsingit added.

In a water summit held in this town, the people affirmed the activation of sustainable customary practices to serve as consistent guide in watershed and forest management – their contribution to balanced ecology and to address the prevailing and worldwide climate change. # nordis.net

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