August 23, 2009 in Baguio City
By WENDY ATUBAN
“We are not squatters”
BAGUIO CITY — The embattled residents of the government declared Busol watershed reservation here admitted being hurt by labels referring to them as squatters while they assert the right to hold on to the land their ancestors bequeathed them.
The ancestral land claimants at the Busol watershed who have been issued demolition orders despite having pending applications for ancestral land titles at the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) confessed being disturbed by labels such as “squatters,” “professional squatters,” and “informal settlers” used to refer to them especially by the media.
“We are not squatters, professional squatters, illegal settlers,” they said adding ,“we are beneficiaries of the Heirs of Gumangan and Molintas.”
The four families Ampaguey, Daluyen, Panayo and Padang who claim to be beneficiaries to the Gumangan and Molintas ancestral lands filed a writ of injunction through the NCIP. They claimed the basis of the demolition order issued to them is the supreme court order enjoining the demolition for other families who are not related to them on February this year. “The Supreme Court determined only the rights and defenses of the three respondents in that case,” adding, “the decision is not an umbrella decision that covers all of us.”
In a statement, they supported the NCIP in issuing the temporary restraining order that stopped the demolition on July 28, invoking the above defense and the “radical” clause in the concept of native title which states “it is to be assumed that the claimants have title. “With this, they said they are vested the rights of ownership and right to introduce improvements.” Further they stated “it is only when the NCIP declares the claims as invalid that the right ceases.”
Gloria Abibuag, spokesperson of the four families appealed to the city government to sit down with them for a better agreement towards “peaceful coexistence” and “co-management” of the watershed. She lamented that the city neglected the position paper which they were required to come up with prior to the demolition.
Fighting to hold her tears back, she said, “Busol is a place we call our own, we cannot just be displaced from the very land where we came from.” Echoing the ordeal that many indigenous people continue to struggle over their ancestral lands which although has the guarantee of the IPRA is still largely unimplemented, she asked, “If you demolish our homes where will we be placed?” # nordis.net