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From adversaries to partners

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devera ip phl

From adversaries to partners:

In 1974, the Ikalahan community in Northern Philippines were granted exclusive rights to use and manage at least
15,000 hectares of forestlands through a Communal Forest stewardship agreement. The contract would last for 25 years and was renewable for another 25 years. The awarding of the CFSA capped years of struggle by the
Ikalahan people to gain land tenure security over their

traditional lands.
The initiative to secure legal recognition and land tenure security was incited by a Government policy that declared state ownership over all forestlands. As such it had the sole prerogative to allocate, distribute and determine the development activities that could be conducted in these areas. The Philippine government initially had plans to “develop” the Ikalahan domain; however the people opposed the plan and instead negotiated with the Government and offered their services to “protect” the forests.
Predictably, the Government resisted the offer of the people citing their lack of
“legal personality” to negotiate with the Government. Furthermore, their capacity to manage the forestland was questioned and their lack of managerial and technical expertise was pointed out.
With persistence and continuous follow-up, the Ikalahan people were able to slowly convince the Government of the wisdom of recognizing their authority and capacity to manage the forests within their ancestral domains. The Ikalahan successfully pushed the argument that it would be to the best interest of the
Philippine Government to recognize them as the forest stewards as they will now own the responsibility of protecting a very critical watershed at no cost to the
Government. The problem of a legal personality was easily addressed by organizing a local Peoples Organization which adopted the traditional leadership as its officers and had the same registered with the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC).
With the help of support groups and other Non-Government
Organizations, community elders and the local Government the
Kalahan Educational Foundation established forest management rules and policies that addressed both conservation and livelihood issues and concerns. The overriding aim was to provide enough opportunities for the community members to sustainably engage in livelihood activities but at the same time conserve the remaining resources. The domain was delineated into several zones where the livelihood areas were designated to spare the primary forests from further degradation.

The KEF board composed of elders established community rules on resource use.
All rules and policies were presented before the community in various assemblies in order to gain the required consensus. All rules were enforced in coordination with the local Government so as not to create conflicts and establish support. Traditional conflict resolution structures such as the Tong-tongan were adopted to resolve conflicts in resource use. Other traditional systems of mediation were continuously tapped to settle problems within the community.
The Ikalahan today through the KEF have developed a simple but sustainable agro-forestry system where sustainable livelihood can still be undertaken within the secondary forests. The old-growth forests continue to exist and large sections of the domain are currently being reforested.
Clearly the Ikalahan of Nueva Vizcaya confirms the principle that the recognition of the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples over their traditional territories is central in fostering collective action for resource conservation.
The CFSA of the Ikalahan people which in 1974 was simply known as MOA No.
01 (memorandum of Agreement No. 1) has since evolved into many forms through countless programs and projects aimed at securing the support and providing tenure for local communities in the conservation the environment. The
Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) is one of the land tenure instruments that traces its roots to the initiative of the Ikalahan people in securing MOA No. 01.

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