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Tagbanuas want to be deputized as forest rangers to protect Puerto Princesa ancestral land

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan (PIA) -- Reynaldo Rodrigo is an active forest ranger in Barangay Cabayugan, Puerto Princesa City.

As a Tagbanua residing in the area, he is committed to protecting their ancestral domain.

However, enforcement of activities like illegal logging and intrusion by outsiders is becoming more challenging, especially for those without the necessary training.

“Para sa amin, basta may katutubo, may kagubatan. Kaya napakahalaga nito sa amin," he said.

[For us, as long as there are indigenous people, there is a forest. That is why it is important to us.]

Rodrigo is aware that indigenous people are still vulnerable and some can be easily manipulated by outsiders.

Rodrigo’s group, Tinig ng mga Katutubo sa Cabayugan (TICKA), requested the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) to deputize them and  give them the proper training for the task at hand.

Cabayugan is one of the barangays covered by the PPSRNP and the home of the UNESCO World Heritage Site– the Puerto Princesa Underground River. 

The community of Sitio Sugod 1 in Barangay Cabayugan, Puerto Princesa City (Photo by Rachel Ganancial)

About 400 Tagbanua families reside in Cabayugan, with an ancestral domain claim of about 5,711.11 hectares.

DENR forester Dennis Aldrin Velasco believed that deputized communities serve as force multipliers, particularly in enforcing environmental laws in remote areas.

The training is part of the deputization process of the DENR to equip communities with the necessary knowledge for the conduct of enforcement activities.

“Para kapag nanghuli sila ay hindi naman sila mababalikan. Dapat alam nila kung ano ‘yong batas na ipinapatupad, kung ano ‘yong magiging basis nila for apprehension at pagbabantay sa kanilang lugar," he said.

[So if they have apprehension, violators will not go after them. They should know what laws must be enforced and what should be their basis for apprehension and monitoring in their area.]

Even though community members would not get any salary for serving as deputies, Mirardo Rodrigo also supports Reynaldo’s advocacy for environmental protection.

Indigenous community members of Barangay Cabayugan, Puerto Princesa City (Photo by Rachel Ganancial)

Mirardo, who chairs Samahan ng Tribo sa Kayasan (SATRIKA), believed that additional training in leadership and paralegal work would be helpful to completely equip them for the role.

“Matagal na namin ito gusto lalo na ‘yong mga sunud-sunod na taong maraming pumasok na nag-i-illegal sa amin. Gusto namin ma-deputize kami dahil iba ‘yong magsita kami na wala kaming hinahawakan na awtoridad," he said.

[We wanted it for so long, especially during those consecutive years when illegal activities happened in our area. We want to be deputized because it is different when you call them out without any authority.]

Reynaldo and Mirardo also aim for the training to awaken the awareness of the entire indigenous community about the welfare of the environment within their ancestral domain.

They also want to lead their community on a more sustainable path by maximizing the potential of their resources through the value-adding of products for the market. (RG/PIA MIMAROPA - Palawan)

About the Author

Rachel Ganancial

Information Officer

Region 4B

Information Officer of PIA-MIMAROPA/ Palawan

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