TUBA, Benguet – Mayor Ignacio Rivera questioned the environment department for allegedly declaring parts of the town, particularly the areas along Marcos highway, as protected area to be managed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) without the conduct of the required consultations with the local officials and the affected indigenous peoples (IPs) who own the ancestral domain in the area.
The local chief executive said it is impractical for the environment department to declare portions of the town as a protected area because the area that had been declared as such is within the ancestral domain of IPs aside from the fact that there are already titles issued by the concerned government agency covering declared private properties in the area.
Further, he also raised an issue over the declaration of Tuba as a protected area while the town of Pugo, Tubao and Aringay in La Union which are located along the stretch of Marcos highway were not declared by the environment as such.
“We are wondering why the environment department limited the declaration of a protected area in Tuba apart from the fact that the declaration was done without the consent of the indigenous peoples who continue to inhabit most of the declared protected areas,” Mayor Rivera stressed.
He explained that pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) require that IPs who inhabit an area must first be consulted for the issuance of their consent to any development interventions that will be introduced in their domain that is why the declaration of Tuba as a protected area should be revisited and eventually cancelled.
According to him, local officials will make the appropriate representations with the environment department to clarify the parameters that were observed in the declaration of Tuba as a protected area and the limitations of being a protected area.
Mayor Rivera expressed confidence that the issue will be resolved the soonest to prevent the issue from being blown out of control and that future actions that will be undertaken should be done in close coordination with the IPs and the local government.
He said that there is no sufficient reason why Tuba should be declared as a protected area when the local government had been doing all appropriate actions within its powers to ensure the sustainable preservation and protection of existing forest reservations that serve as primary source of water not only for the residents but also the people of nearby Baguio City.
He asserted that it will be unfair for those private individuals who were able to legally secure titles over their properties to be covered by the declaration of portions of the town as protected area because the same will result to the outright cancellation of the issued titles that will deprive them of the use of their properties for their own personal use.
Tuba hosts the over 3,000-hectare Mount Sto. Tomas forest reservation contained under Proclamation No. 581 dated July 8, 1940 wherein the same is inhabited by IPs who were able to establish their ancestral domain over portions of the said watershed that is one of the remaining watersheds in Baguio and Benguet.