BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Officials of the Gaddang tribe here are pushing for the completion of their ancestral domain claim in the province with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
The move was started four years ago during the launching of their ancestral domain area survey and boundary marking project in barangay Batu Ferry in this town.
The program was coupled with a massive information dissemination to the Gaddang communities
“We are about to complete our ancestral domain claim. Only areas in Diadi town are still being worked out due to a similar claim of the Ayangan tribe,” Jimmy Calata, a member of the Gaddang, said.
He said their tribe was the first who crafted their Indigenous Political Structure in the country, a requirement in claiming their ancestral domain areas.
The Gaddang’s ancestral domain areas in Nueva Vizcaya is part of the country’s 30 million hectares of land. One third or 10 million hectares are being claimed as ancestral domains of various indigenous peoples, where 7.5 million have already been titled.
Gregorio Singgangan, NCIP provincial chief, said the ancestral domain survey and boundary marking project was funded by the NCIP then.
It involved on-site ancestral domain survey and erection of ancestral domain boundary markers of the Gaddang tribe in consultation with the tribal folks’ communities scattered in several municipalities of the province.
The Gaddangs’ more than 100,000 hectares of claimed ancestral domain cover parts of the municipalities of Bambang, Bayombong, Bagabag, Solano, Diadi, Quezon and Villaverde.
The project, he said, also generated employment as it required the services of Gaddang tribe members who were paid P250 per day during the work period.
“The Gaddang tribe was the first indigenous people who settled in our province since time immemorial but were the last tribe who have moved to formally claim for recognition their ancestral domain areas in Nueva Vizcaya,” Singgangan said.
Attempts to put in place the ancestral domain area claim of the Gaddang tribe into the NCIP’s ancestral domain title map failed to generate support for many years.
Even Corazon Espino, who served as an NCIP commissioner for Cagayan Valley, also led a campaign for the tribe’s quest to officially claim its ancestral domain in the province.
“Commissioner Espino was pushing for this project for six years. I know this because I was facilitating her official travel vouchers then. I cannot also make moves then because it was unethical for us to do so,” said Dr. Jose Tamani, also a former employee of the NCIP and a Gaddang elder.
Tribal elders believe however, that like their cultural songs, dances and traditions, their ancestral domain must also be addressed in recognition of their rights under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.
They cited as an example the rights and benefits now being felt and enjoyed by the Bugkalot tribe in the towns of Dupax del Sur and Alfonso Castaneda through the operation of the Casecnan Multi-Purpose Irrigation and Power Project and the Ayangan tribe who has successfully claimed at least 6,000 hectares of its ancestral domain areas in Villaverde town and parts of Solano town.
The Ayangan tribe is now claiming royalty fees amounting to P100,000 yearly from the American company Smith Bell, which operates the Mini-Hydro Power Project by using their water resources.