VII. Challenges and Recommendations Securing tenure follows a very complicated and arduous process. The very idea of securing tenure for a marginalized sector of the society challenges existing paradigms, mindsets, shakes the status quo and makes people and institutions in power uncomfortable. However, there have been experiences that can provide insights on the challenges that communities and support groups face as they go about securing legal tenure over their resources. The issue equity among stakeholders has always provided a great challenge to local communities and proponents of tenurial rights. Demand for tenurial security is often situated in environmentally critical areas which do not only have an impact to local communities but to a greater number of stakeholders. For instance, the Ikalahan domain is the last remaining intact watershed for the downstream communities of central Philippines. Securing tenure is a rights-based initiative which recognizes the Ikalahan community’s inherent traditional rights over the watershed. However, the concerns of the downstream communities have to be equally addressed. Sometimes local government feel threatened when tenure is secured by local communities. Traditional structures are seen as rivals for local power, these will have implications for local power relations (economic, social and political). It may even exacerbate conflict with local government but there are ways to mitigate this. Thus the need to continue to explore appropriate collaborative management models has to be undertaken. Concerns have been raised on the coverage and extents of traditional territories. There are no hard and fast rules on how large a claim can be. Every community will have their own basis to define what is traditionally owned, managed or controlled. Problems will arise since most areas within the region already have multiple stakeholders. Governments can regulate and draft guidelines that shall define what can be claimed or locally managed. In the Philippines, concerns on the capacity of communities to physically enforce their authority on wide tracts of traditional territories have been raised. With claims ranging from a low of 1 hectare to a high of 120,000 hectares, the ability of communities to enforce their local rules and effectively manage the domain has to be taken into consideration. While it is expected that the Government has the responsibility to take police action and enforce a legally
recognized tenurial instrument. The reality is that it has neither the resources nor willingness to impose itself and enforce the law. More often that not, Governments take an adversarial position and pin the blame on the community for having filed such a huge claim and now they shall have to be responsible for the damages that have been done to the environment due to their inability to enforce their rules. The initiative to secure tenure or tenure itself invariably forces one to fall within the framework of governments. Land and resources will be commodified once it becomes the subject of an agreement or title. Sometimes this cannot be reconciled or accommodated by traditional structures which are not flexible enough to co-exist. Some Governments demand absolute authority in almost all facets of resource management while some may allow for limited power sharing. Some communities on the other hand do not trust Government institutions and feel uncomfortable dealing with them. The challenge is how to enable local communities to engage the Government and/or dominant sector of society. Resistance will always be strong but eventually these will change. The Ikalahan case for one shows how they were able to slowly chip away at the bureaucratic walls thrown at them. Other Indigenous Communities in the Philippines now face the same dilemma as they have been required to establish a legal entity to enable them to negotiate and enter into contracts with the Government for a resource utilization tenurial instruments. Conflicts are expected as the Government asserts itself and its authority to regulate and be the sole protector of the environment. For the Indigenous Communities however, securing tenure over their land is an expression of self determination and a renewal of their inherent right to own, utilize and manage their land resources. Thus, a common ground and compromise should be established in order to ensure the continuity of the role of Indigenous peoples as stewards of the environment. Such is a win-win situation where the communities shall flourish, and their rights are respected while the natural environment is protected.