BAGUIO CITY — Church and tribal leaders urged members of the Betwagan of Sandanga, Mountain Province, and Butbut tribes of Tinglayan, Kalinga, to refrain from initiating actions that may further escalate the conflict.

The Social Ministry Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines (SMC-EDNP) and Movement for Advancement of Inter-Tribal Unity and Development (MAITUD) initiated the resolution outlining an initial agreement. They asked the two tribes to spare those who are living, working, and studying in other places from the conflict.

“…iti laksid daytoy madama nga risirisyo maipanggep iti nabayag a saanyo a pagkinaawatan maipanggep idiay ikar ket pagtuluganyo koma nga saan kayo a dumangran iti kakailian iti agsinnumbangir a tribu nga mapan iti sabali wenno adda iti dadduma a luglugar kas idiay Boctoc, Baguio, Tabuk, Manila ken sadinno man nga adda iti ruar ti ili ken probinsya (Despite the existing conflict between the two of you, we urged that you agree not to inflict harm to any members of the tribe traveling or staying in other places like Bontoc, Baguio, Tabuk, Manila and other areas outside the community and province),” the resolution said.

Signatories of the resolution are EDNP Social Action Officer Reverend Lawig Ngayaan and MAITUD Chairperson Henry Atiwag. Mountain Province Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan and EDNP Bishop Brent Harry Alawas endorsed the document to the concerned parties.

The resolution also asked the tribes to refrain from launching any actions against each other along the Bontoc-Tabuk road. They likewise appealed to both parties to assure the safety of children and allow them to return to school.

Since the peace pact between Butbut and Betwagan no longer exists, the proponents said their proposal would ensure the safety of the youth who are studying and working in other places.

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT.On February 6, Mountain Province Provincial Peace and Order Council Chairperson Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan called a special meeting to discuss measures to deescalate the conflict. Also, the provincial councils of Mountain Province and Kalinga held joint sessions last year to resolve the boundary dispute. Photo from Mountain Province PIO.

On February 4, Betwagan Punong Barangay Agustin Agpawan reported to Sadanga Municipal Police Station a shooting that occurred the day before. He narrated to the authorities that alleged members of the Butbut tribe fired at some farmers from Betwagan who were searching for their carabaos at Mt. Ikar.

Nobody was hurt in the incident. However, it heightened the tension between the two tribes that have been going on for years. The conflict arises from the unresolved boundary dispute in the area where the shooting transpired. The place is traditional common pastureland for ruminants bordering the two tribes.

Fearing a possible escalation of the conflict and retaliation after the incident, the local government of Sadanga fetched 31 students from Butbut studying at the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College in Bontoc and Tadian. Some students from Betwagan also returned home.

“Padegdeganyo koma daytoy a dawatmi kas pagkinaawatan ti agsumbangir a tribo bayat nga ibirbirokyo ti amin a pamuspusan tapnu marisut daytoy a risiris (We hope that you will agree to our request while finding all possible ways to settle your conflict),” the resolution stated.

On February 7, Abraham Batawang of MAITUD, together with Ngayaan, Rev. Edwin Ayabo, and Rev. Winston Minong, and Mountain Province Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative Thomas Tawagen delivered the resolution to Bugnay.

According to Batawang, they discussed the content of the resolution with the elders and residents of Bugnay. He said they are amenable to the content and willing to enter an agreement. However, they want Betwagan to sign the deal first.

Meanwhile, Betwagan received a copy of the resolution on February 12. Batawang, Lawig, and Anglican priest Rafael Lomong-oy gave the recommendation and consulted the barangay officials, which also agreed with the terms. They promised to discuss with the members of the tribe before giving their official response.

If both sides would approve the accord, those who will violate it will be accountable under both the Penal Code and traditional laws. # nordis.net

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