Local communities throughout Mountain Province have expressed their disapproval over the implementation of the Integrated Natural Resources Environment Management Program (INREMP).
INREMP is a special project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) aimed at reforesting covered areas and bring livelihood opportunities to the locals. With an allotted fund of $154.13 Million, it is being implemented in various watershed areas nationwide. Here in the Cordillera region, the Chico-Tanudan river basin has been designated to be among the pilot areas.
But verbal and written opposition among certain communities is hampering the implementation of the project. This is due to the perception that it may bring more harm than good.
Behind Community Oppositions
Roger Sacyaten in his article titled, “Implementation of environment projects in MP clarified,” mentioned that barangay officials and elders in Betwagan, Sadanga have forwarded a resolution denying the implementation of the INREMP and other related environmental and natural resources activities in the barangay.
The resolution dated February 10, 2015, but only recently made public, resolves not to accept the implementation of the INREMP in the barangay for the following reasons: most of the mountains are pasturelands and the community does not need the mountains to be reforested and that the indigenous way of managing the forest is still effective.
The barangay officials and elders also said that their previous experiences in the reforestation projects of the Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resources Management Project (CHARMP) have no material favorable effect on the mountains and forests.
The decision not to accept INREMP implementation in the barangay was a result of a community meeting 2 days after the conduct of an orientation on the implementation of the INREMP in the barangay which was attended by the barangay officials and community elders and people.
Information gathered revealed that other barangays also voiced out negative sentiments about the INREMP, but short of formal declaration as what the community of Betwagan did.
Nearby community of Anabel, Sadanga was known to be harbouring doubts on INREMP. Village chief Ceasar Attong said that the community is polarized on the issue but a decision has yet to be made.
Barlig, considered as the “Last Frontier of Mountain Province,” has also moved to defer INREMP’s implementation particularly because of the unsettled boundary between Lias and Natonin. The issue emanates from the alleged encroachment of Natonin over Lias’ ancestral domains as well as part of Kadaclan.
In a consultation made by INREMP officials last year, the locals of Lias have aired their staunch opposition since Natonin is included when in the first place; it has no territory bordering the Tanudan river. According to Lozenzo Nabusan, one of the personnel designated by the municipal office to protest Natonin’s claim, said that implementing INREMP would mean acknowledging that the disputed areas are a part of Natonin.
He furthered that implementing INREMP without resolving the boundary dispute is a disrespect to the traditional system namely Puchun, which have been the basis of settling community and inter-tribal issues. He even criticized the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) for its lack of action over the matter.
Moreover, he decried the fact that INREMP is already implemented in the disputed areas in favor of Natonin despite the opposition mounted by the Lias folks.
Of government response
Joel Dangkiw, a staff at the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office in the province and designated to oversee the implementation of INREMP in the province, clarifies that the program is to benefit the communities under the coverage of the special project.
“The perceptions that the government will later on own the lands reforested is twisted. The communities own the forests, the mountains, and the resources thereat even after the project implementation”, he said.
The above-mentioned article of Sacyaten adds that according to Octavio Cuanso, OIC Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer, the main concern in the province is the issue on the non-tenurial areas of coverage. INREMP requires the project to be implemented in areas with tenurial documents, maybe titles, in the name of the beneficiaries.
Of the total 112 barangays in the coverage of INREMP, only 33 barangays have tenurial instruments and shall benefit from the project. The rest are problematic areas unless the NCIP comes out with a remedial measure such as a certification that the concerned areas are under ancestral domains or that the same have such applications.
Mayor Gabino Ganggangan of Sadanga said that “the action of Betwagan was misguided” insinuating that the resolution rejecting the implementation of INREMP in the barangay is not proper.//Daniel Jason M. Maches