By GWEN L. GAONGEN
SAGADA, Mountain Province — DENR holds workshop with elders and government officials as a step towards the “recognition” of Sagada peoples’ right to utilize trees and other forest products within their ancestral domain.
The activity intended to inform participants of the rationale and draft requisites towards what is called Sustainable Traditional Indigenous Forest Management Practices (STIFMP) more popularly known as “Batangan System”. The activity too acted as feedback mechanism that may enhance the municipal ordinance which attempts to capture customary law on forest management.
Resource inventory or mapping, synchronization with municipal land use plan and zoning ordinance, procedural steps towards utilization and formation of structural mechanisms are other requisites for the Batangan System’s recognition. These were initially addressed during the workshop.
Inventory of forest resources will be done by mapping out sample areas in woodlots. Cristopher Bosaing of the CENRO says that the resource mapping intends to identify how much resource the municipality has. The inventory provides data on forests that may be enhanced and those where traditional utilization of trees may be undertaken. Bosaing adds that it can also pave possibilities of non-traditional resource based livelihoods.
The participants with the assistance of the DENR’s staff initially drafted procedural steps in registration of woodlots. Clan woodlots are to be “registered” at the barangay level, attested and validated by barangay officials and elders. Communally managed woodlots shall be “registered” at a municipal level.
On the process of harvesting trees, “pammalubos” shall be obtained from woodlot administrators in writing or thru a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) stating number of trees to be felled. This shall be certified by the barangay after an ocular inspection of the woodlot and trees. Actual harvesting of trees mandates presence of barangay representative in order to ensure agreements are followed.
At a municipal level, an environment council shall be formed.
Participants raised apprehension as to resource inventories paving the way for more efficient tax collection on mature trees. It was suggested that the Sangguniang Bayan must stipulate in the ordinance that inventories not be used for taxation purposes.
Barangay officials see new challenges once these systems are in place but also see opportunities for added revenue sources.
As the concept and process of “formalization” or “legalization” of a customary practice new, albeit much awaited by the people, the continuing discussion and consultation on this shall provide opportunity for enhancement and better understanding, and if found acceptable-to be adhered to or if found wanting-to be further improved and accepted by the community.
But the DENR is also under time constraint and has 2 months to conduct the meetings and show results for Sagada, Besao and Tadian. It is up to the local governments to create fora and encourage optimum participation, document these and hopefully put to use, in order to match DENR efforts. After all, it is claimed the formalization of the “Batangan System” has the peoples’ right to utilize their trees and other non-timber resources as its utmost intent.
Zonal meetings will follow for re-echo and feedback following these schedules: Southern Barrios will be on October 30-31 at Ankileng Elementary School; South-Central Barangays on November 6-7 at St. Columba; Central Barangays on November 8-9 at the municipal conference hall; Northern Barrios on November 10-11 at the Parish Hall and; Eastern Barangays on November 13-14 at the Kilong covered court. # nordis.net