BESAO, Mountain Province – “Batangan’ is this town’s age-old and proven indigenous forest management system that has been place since time immemorial that resulted to the conservation of forest cover considering that traditional ways of preserving, maintaining and protecting the forests have been passed on to generations.
Under the ‘batangan,’ there are various types of management system that are incorporated within it which has been practiced tracing back centuries ago that include farm ground areas which are devoted for livelihood opportunities like agricultural crop production such as rice fields, root crops and vegetable gardens, orchards and backyard livestock production; pasture land or “pundag or pastulan’ areas which are utilized for grazing animals regulated through the free grazing customary practice and its utilization shall take into consideration the maximum carrying capacity of the land without excessively exploiting its capacity of natural replenishment; burial grounds which are locally identified for community graveyard and cannot be and will never be converted into other land uses and that activities not in accordance with its original purpose are strictly prohibited; hunting ground which are mossy areas generally utilized for hunting activities and the same is protected for watershed purposes and activities must conform with established customary norms and culturally accepted conduct; water source or watershed are areas utilized as water sources like springs, creeks and other water channels contained by the community as protected in accordance with customary practices including but not limited to a complete ban on tree cutting within the immediate peripheries and such other activities that threaten the maintenance of the vegetation; sacred ground are natural settings within the ‘batangan’ which are distinct in its character as being utilized for rituals as it is believed to be the domicile of ‘spirits,’ deities, or unseen beings commonly regarded as nature guardians and custodians fully acknowledged by the community with utmost respect and the said areas must be accorded with such respect and manners that would not in any way offend the residents to avoid repercussions that usually come in the form of community plagues and sufferings; wood lot or forestland are either ‘kumon/saguday/lakon’ individual, personal or family owned and sustainably managed with ample forest vegetation as production and protection forests that form part or parcel of the ‘batangan’ and the applicable rules and regulations over the area are provided and developed areas which refers to build up settlement areas, thoroughfares, trails and other established infrastructures that form part of the ‘batangan’ serving the needs of a community and the regulations over said areas as provided by existing laws and ordinances.
The indigenous socio-political administrators of the ‘batangan ’are the primary responsible persons in the management of the ‘batangan’ which include the village group or ‘dumap-ay’ administrators who are the active elders of the ‘dap-ay’ relied upon and responsible in the so-called socio-cultural institution and who are recognized based on credibility and commitment to the welfare of the villagers; the clan administrator or ‘menbantay’ or the caretaker who is usually the oldest or sometimes the ‘takba’ holder, who is designated by the clan forest owners to undertake the responsibility and lead role in the protection and management of the said forest; the family administrators who are traditionally the head of the family, however, in cases of incapacity or absence in the community, the children consensually perform as a body in the management of the family’s wood lot and community elders who are usually the members of a specific community recognized and accepted through reliability and standing in the implementation of desired activities for the interest of the indigenous peoples.
On the other hand, a barangay ‘batangan’ management council could also be created in every barangay which will be similar to the council of elders in the indigenous system and will act as a collective body primarily responsible for ‘batangan ’management in the barangay level. It could be composed of the barangay captain as chairperson and its membership will be composed of the chairman of the barangay committee on environment, village administrators, clan administrators, representatives of senior citizens organization, women’s organization, youth organization, peoples organization not otherwise represented and members the community may deem necessary.
Further, a municipal ‘batangan’ council can also exist and it will serve as the overall ‘batangan’ management body at the municipal level. It shall be chaired by the municipal mayor with members composed of the chairperson of the municipal council on environment, all chairperson of barangay ‘batangan’ management councils, municipal indigenous peoples mandatory representative, representatives of the municipal senior citizens organization, women’s organization, youth organization, nongovernment organization and peoples organizations accredited by the municipal council.
The land is generally communally owned pursuant to the indigenous principle of collective stewardship in the ‘batangan’ system that allocates land only to individuals or groups following traditional forms of ownership with access, rights and responsibilities to specific land areas and its natural resources.
Under the system, the lands could exist as ‘tawid’or inheritance, ‘lakon ’which is the area individual acquired to support subsistence, ‘tudo’ or the are granted from communally owned forest to an individual or ‘dap-ay’ as a gratitude or reward; natural domain refers to the area commonly owned and managed by the community; purchase or the area referred to as privately owned; ‘pap-ayangan’ or gift which was acquired in terms of good deeds from relatives in the form of donation; and ‘sukat’ refers to the exchange of lots by allowing those in need to construct their dwellings in someone’s private land claim suited for residential and thereafter may be replaced in any place as agreed upon by both parties.
The resolution of conflicts within the ‘batangan’ shall be the primary responsibility of the barangay ‘batangan’ management council which is accountable for the resolution of disputes following the indigenous and customary practices and rituals like the ‘tuya’ and ‘sapata’ for the sustenance of peace and tranquillity with the community and aggrieved parties may initiate formal court proceedings only after exhausting the indigenous and customary remedies.