The Palawan Mountains:

July 5, 2011

 

Palawan is a long narrow island claimed to be the last frontier due to its remaining forest diversity with abundant different endemic species of flora and fauna in which some of these are still not known to science as of the moment. It has the country’s largest remaining area of tropical forests, consisting of lowland &  montane rainforests, monsoon forests and mangroves. The island has been celebrated for its biological diversity and is dubbed as the Philippines’ “Last Ecological Frontier”. Hence, UNESCO has declared Palawan as a whole, a “Man and Biosphere Reserve”. In 1991, the Philippine Congress recognized Palawan’s environment as very critical and, therefore, passed a special law known as the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan, which became the fundamental law governing the island’s natural resources and its framework for development direction. These mountains profiles is remarkable in terms of abundance and diversity, most were used by tribal healers as medical ingredients for curing illness in the village. These mountains are very significant to the indigenous people because it is their market because they get food from the forest, it is their pharmacy when someone gets ill in the village and it is also their hardware because they get housing materials.  Owners of these mountains are indigenous people who are now actively participating in government wide endeavors of protecting the environment and save the remaining forest residue.

The forests and mountains are the home of three indigenous groups: the Tagbanua, Batak and Pala’wan and they are spread all over the province. The Tagbanuas were historically coastal and riverine dwellers but have retreated to the inland as a reaction to the successive waves of migration by other settlers but have been the most widely distributed indigenous group in the island. The Batak are forest-foraging people inhabiting communities in the central eastern part of island. The Palaw’an communities, concentrated in the central and southern part, have favored the mountainous interior over the fertile alluvial plains in order to protect the respected spirits of their areas. These three tribes depend on their customary land and its forest resources as the main source of subsistence and livelihood such as swidden farming, hunting and gathering of non-timber forest products such as rattan, honey and almaciga resin. Embedded in the very life of these lands is the extension of their cultural identity and integrity which have been nurtured and enriched throughout generations. Moreover, most of these forest are ancestral domains within biodiversity hotspots of Palawan.

However, it is a general condition among tribal groups in the Philippines, where an increasing number have been displaced from their ancestral domains due mainly to intrusion of plantation expansion and extractive industries. During the past few years, these threats to the forest-dependent communities have dramatically gained in strength. Thus, while it is true that the island of Palawan is blessed with luxuriant forest and its inhabitants pride themselves – until today – living in a relatively unspoiled and healthy environment, the same island is also cursed with an abundance of minerals under its soil. As a consequence, Palawan has truly become a mining hotspot. Oddly enough, those minerals are mostly found beneath forested tribal areas. Collectively, around 651,533 hectares of forested area or nearly half of the entire island is under the imminent threat of being plundered by a total of 322 mining applications.   Meanwhile, it may not come as a surprise that also plantation interests such as oil palm and sugarcane are vying for expansion in tribal areas, as that is where most of the remaining intact forests are located and due to the fact that the current fad for “green” biodiesel fuels up the demand for palm oil and ethanol.

These are the sentiments of the indigenous people of Palawan, although these people want to save the remaining forest diversity but the government is tolerating the destruction of these forest despite of the existence of Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.

Current Programs

October 26, 2009

ANCESTRAL DOMAIN &

ADVOCACY OF IP RIGHTS

NATRIPAL has been assisting Indigenous Peoples in their struggle for the recognition and delineation of their ancestral domains. Along with its partners, it works with local multi sectoral groups to advance indigenous peoples interest and to defend the Ips of Palawan from threats to various forms of development aggression. NATRIPAL also networks nationally and globally in supporting Ips right.

RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND CONSERVATION

Recording reviving and promoting traditional resource management principles is imperative to preserving ancestral domains. This form the core of resource management program, especially in developing ancestral domain management plans. Indigenous knowledge and biological inventories are utilized in developing such plans. Assisted natural regeneration activities have also been conducted especially in the case of rattan wildlings. Agro forest development has also been promoted at the near end of the second millennium.

ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT

The trade of non-timber forest product or NTFPs such as rattan, almaciga resin and honey have been the primary sources of livelihood for the indigenous people of Palawan. NATRIPAL has established a centralized marketing and product development unit to market and upgrade such products both locally and nationally with the objective of raising economic returns to the craftsmen and harvesters themselves. Promotion of value added products are initially developed in order to increase the revenues and benefits that will in return contribute to conservation and protection of environment.

COMMUNITY ORGANIZING

We believe that the long term affectivity of projects depends on the strength of community leadership and sustained community interest and participation. Thus programs require social preparation and regular community consultations. NATRIPAL also places emphasis on capability building activities in ensuring the growth and maturity of local Indigenous Peoples organizations.

HEALTH

Enhancing awareness building on health and sanitation is the primary task of the federation to its constituents. Promotion of traditional healing processes and the use of herbal medicine practices are strengthened as part of this program. With this, partnership with different government agencies and other private sectors are established to support community efforts by putting proper health management in the hand of the indigenous peoples.


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