MP dads to settle legal issues on Batangan System

By GWENDOLYN LONGID GAONGAN
www.nordis.net

BONTOC, Mountain Province — Another round of talks targeted at clarifying legalities in the implementation of the recognized Batangan Systems of Tadian, Besao and Sagada took place August 7th at the Sanggunian Panlalawigan Hall, here.

This dialogue was initiated by the Montanyosa Sangguniang Panlalawigan in response to the June 21st Batangan Forum where stakeholders expressed dismay on non-approval of earlier proposed ordinances to operationalize the Batangan System. LGU officials and civil society representatives from Besao, Sagada and Tadian as well as newly installed PENRO Engr. Ernesto Aton, senior forester Christopher Bosaing and other DENR staff; provincial environment office; NCIP lawyer Atty. Atanacio Addog and other provincial employees and media were in attendance.

“We did not oppose your ordinances, we support the Batangan System but we have to make sure that these are not contrary to national laws… we are here to give advice” explained Provincial legal officer Atty. Tomas Kiwang Jr.

He explained that the 3 issues raised by the SP and the legal team were perceived ambiguous in the Batangan Ordinances drafted by the Sangguniang Bayan of Besao, Sagada and Tadian. One, in relation to penalties in violation of the Batangan wherein these exceed Php 2,500; 2) authority of LGUs to issue chainsaw permits and lastly in relation to 3) the LGU issuance of timber cutting permits.

Kiwang explained that since the Batangan system is customary, the ordinances can express respect and recognition of the freedom of which the indigenous communities determine their Batangan management systems. This means that it must be governed by their “internal rules” which the LGU supports and insures through monitoring. This way the batangan management units exercise their right to collect penalties on violations of the internal rules.

Since the traditional management units are not governed by the maximum Php 2,500 penalty by LGUs as stipulated in the local government code, these penalties can be in kind such as “multa of nuang o baboy” or cash more than Php 2,500. But penalties below Php2,500 may be imposed by the LGU if they find it necessary to penalize violations. Kiwang adds that these penalties may be on top of that which local administrative units of the Batangan may impose. A monitoring fee may be collected by LGU without any legal impediment.

Indigenous peopes mandatory representative (IPMR) of Sagada, Jaime Dugao said in his opening statement that, “We must be biased for national minorities, there are inconsistencies between national laws and traditional laws…we must be grateful that there are the issued Joint Administrative Orders by DENR and NCIP and its Joint Implementing Rules and Regulations (JIRR) recognizing our rights to our batangan…we find ways so that our rights are exercised without sacrificing national interest…and for people not to be detained when they utilize their own trees.”

As to authority to issue licenses for chainsaw usage and cutting permits, Kiwang says these are clearly stated in the Chainsaw Act and PD 705. It is only the DENR that may issue both; provided requirements defined by law have been complied with.

Stakeholders explain that the chainsaw license that the LGU issues is similar to a business permit in order to operate or be used within the locality. This move is approved by the people through the various consultations prior to the drafting of the ordinances.

Prior to issuance also of the LGU chainsaw license is registration with the DENR. PENRO Aton adds that a registered chainsaw also includes the specific usage and area it is intended to be used. He also says that it is not contrary to the Chainsaw Act if LGU choose to regulate these within their jurisdictions.

Senior Forester Christopher Bosaing of CENRO Sabangan adds that the DENR primary role in the chainsaw registration is to insure they are used for legal purposes. This means chainsaw usage as defined by Batangan management units and LGU will be legalized soon as the Batangan System is enforced.

Clarifying on the permit to cut trees, Bosaing says that the approved forest resource use plan and its annual work plan shall replace the regular permit issued by the DENR. The resource use plan and work plan shall indicate among other concerns, the specific expected volume to be harvested within a year. Thus it is pertinent for the Batangan system that MLGUs arrive at and gain the affirmation of the DENR.

The possibility of including other municipalities in this recognized traditional pine forest management systems was again raised. Earlier understanding of the JAO 2008-01 and its JIRR that a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim or Title (CADC/CADT) issued by the NCIP is prerequisite. However, PENRO Aton clarifies that 2008-01 and the JIRR states that the recognized Sustainable Traditional Indigenous Forest Resource Management Systems and Practices (STIFRMSP) cover Mountain Province. Of course other municipalities have to have their traditional resource systems recognized by the DENR. This is because each ancestral domain may have different forms and administrative units.

The Batangan System actual implementation has taken a good part of a decade. As MPDO of Besao Modesto Gaab expressed, “this has been a long struggle-to be recognized by national government…let us implement it.” The dialogue hopefully brings this a notch higher towards actualization.

The dialogue has served to clarify the main issues on penalties, chainsaw registration and permit to cut that has delayed the approval of the ordinances. But more so, it has also given clarity on the roles of the key players: the Batangan owners and their management units; the DENR; MLGU and MENROs.

The delay in schedule for the dialogue was deliberate such that it will include as participants the newly elected SK and ABC provincial representatives. The MLGUs are now enjoined to rewrite their ordinances in accordance with the discussions and draft the resource use plans. Until these are submitted, the DENR does not have a legal basis to approve and actualize the Batangan System. Meanwhile, PD 705 prevails.# nordis.net

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