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Tenure and Conservation: The Tagbanwa and Ikalahan Experience



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1. Tenure and Conservation: The Tagbanwa and Ikalahan Experience
The region is rife with experiences of conservation initiatives that failed due to the non-recognition of tenure as a prerequisite to foster collective community action and support. At the same time there have been good examples of Communities making full use and optimizing the benefits of the recognition of their land rights to initiate conservation.
Case 1. Tagbanwa of Coron Island, Northern Palawan
Missed Opportunities:
The Calamian Tagbanwa inhabit the beautiful limestone Coron Island, one of the Calamianes islands of North Palawan, surrounded by water once rich in marine resources, the main source of their livelihood. In the 1980s, declining fisheries in the adjoining Visayas islands and southern Luzon coasts triggered the movement of fishers westward into Calamianes waters, which resulted in over-fishing, illegal fishing, and an increased human population. To cope with the sudden population growth, the deficit-ridden municipal government of Coron attempted to increase revenues through taxes on the trade of natural resources. It strictly regulated indigenous lands and local resources traditionally traded by the indigenous communities and declared them properties of the municipal government.
By the mid-1980s the waters surrounding the island were being degraded at an alarming rate by dynamite, cyanide, and other illegal and destructive fishing methods. The situation was so serious that the Tagbanwa began facing food shortages. In response to this ecological assault, in 1985 the Tagbanwa organized the Tagbanwa Foundation of Coron Island, which applied to the
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Ironside, Jeremy: Securing Tenure Rights for cambodia’s Indigenous Communities


Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) for a Community
Forest Stewardship Agreement. The Stewardship Agreement would provide a
25-year legal tenure to the Tagbanwa people and allow them to mange their natural resources through a community forest management plan. In 1990 the community was awarded the Agreement covering the whole of Coron Island and a small neighboring Island, Delian. Since the Agreement was part of a national social forestry program implemented by DENR.
Not satisfied with what amounted to no more than a
25-year lease on their ancestral home, the
Tagbanwa Foundation then went on to use a new law—
known as Administrative
Order Number 2 of 1993—to pursue a permanent title to their land. Administrative
Order Number 2, which proved to be the precursor of the Indigenous People’s Right
Act, cleared the way for the Tagbanwa to gain control over both land and marine resources through a rights-based approach to community resource management.
With the help of the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development
(PAFID) a national NGO, the Tagbanwa obtained their Certificate of Ancestral
Domain Claim (CADC) in 1998—the first such certificate in the country that included both land and marine waters.
The Tagbanwa had secured their land rights not a moment too soon. In
1998,

Coron Island was selected as one of eight sites in the Philippines to be incorporated into the National Integrated Protected Areas System. While it has long been the goal of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to gazette the whole of Coron Island as a protected area, the Tagbanwa have resisted. They fear losing control over the island despite promises of majority participation in the protected area’s management board. And they have good reason to be skeptical: When Coron Island was selected for inclusion in the
NIPAS, it was done so without consultation with the local community and without seeking its prior consent. Furthermore, the proponents of the proposed conservation program expressed ambiguity and were non-committal when pressed by the Tagbanwa for their position and institutional support for the
Ancestral Domain Claim.
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Ferrari, De Vera: Participatory or Rights-Based Approach? Which is best for Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines,
2003


In spite of the inherent lack of local support for the conservation project, activities were launched and substantial resources were poured into the island.
The results were not encouraging, participation was limited to community members who were directly employed with the project. Factions among the closely-knit families began to emerge. There were instances when community members participated mainly due to the coercive nature of the Government and felt that they had no choice but accept the conservation project.
Clearly there was no incentive to actively participate in an undertaking that failed to address the most basic need of the Tagbanwa, which was to secure legal recognition of their rights over the lands and seas in Coron. In a general assembly of the Tagbanwa of
Coron, they officially demanded that the
Island be stricken off as a conservation area and removed from the target sites of the DENR.
After 3 years, the widely advertised and substantially funded project ended with a whimper. The
Island was not declared as an “official” park nor was it integrated into the
National parks System. Project assets were quietly turned over to the local government. To this day, very few
Tagbanwa remember the project and its objective to conserve the resources of the island.
And in 2001, the Tagbanwa successfully obtained a Certificate of Ancestral
Domain Title (CADT). It was the first successful claim and Title that included parts of the ocean in the ancestral domain. The Tagbanwa take pride in the fact that the initiative to secure tenure over the land and seas came from them and their active participation in the whole process illustrated their intense desire to gain recognition of their rights over their ancestral domain As the Tagbanwa
Foundation’s chairman, Rodolfo Aguilar, explains, “We are a living example of how IPRA can be used successfully by indigenous peoples.”


With the issuance of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Certificate
(CADC) in 1998 and the consequent warding of a Certificate of Ancestral
Domain Title (CADT), the Tagbanwa have since been able to achieve major gains. They were able to convince the Government to recognize the local traditional leadership as an “interim Protected Area Management Board”. They have drafted and finalized and are now currently implementing their Ancestral
Domain management Plan which provides guidelines for the utilization and management of the land and seas. Curiously, a recurring theme of the Ancestral
Domain management Plan was the conservation of the natural resources within the island.
Today, most of Coron’s forests are still intact, and the ADMP of the
Tagbanwa has been recognized by the Local Government, and more importantly the local tourism industry operators are now required to secure annual permits from the Tagbanwa community before they could bring tourists to the island.
Enforcement of the traditional rules of resource utilization in the ocean has not been as successful as that in the terrestrial areas. While there has been a noticeable decrease in illegal fishing within the reefs covered by the Tagbanwa title, the limited capacity of the community to physically enforce their rules and policies have enabled some unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of the situation.
The success of the Tagbanwa in securing tenure over their traditional territories has inspired eleven other Tagbanwa communities to file claims over their territories. Furthermore, the CADT has provided the Tagbanwa community of Coron the wherewithal to be respected and be at par with other stakeholders in the area. This new arrangement will go a long way in enabling the Tagbanwa to pursue their identified development and conservation priorities.
Case 2. The Ikalahan of Sta. Fe Nueva Vizcaya

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