LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Indigenous peoples in the town’s sixteen barangays are now getting their acts together to take back their properties that had been proclaimed by government agencies and higher education institutions for various purposes, such as education, among others.
Betag Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Pedro Golocan stated that several Ibaloi clans that have existing claims over some government properties in the municipality want to compel concerned government agencies, such as the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), to start processing their claims so that there will be appropriate delineation of their properties and that of the areas being occupied by government agencies, private individuals and even higher education institutions.
He claimed that the persistence of the claimants was triggered by the plan of the State-run Benguet State University (BSU) to put up a mall within a 4,000-square meter portion of its property as the same is in conflict with the primary intention of the use of the university’s lands for education purposes and its classification as institutional lands.
Golocan argued that if their lands will be used for the business interests of the institution, then it is proper for them to take back their lands through the constituted processes prescribed under existing laws, rules and regulations. He claims that they might not do so if the same will be used for the education of the present and future generations of the youth as this will be their contribution to the noble purpose of advancing the education needs of their children and their children’s children.
According to him, it is important that government agencies act on the application of claimants for the issuance of their ancestral claim or ancestral domain titles to ensure that the same will not be sold or leased to concerned businessmen or sold as this contravenes the purpose for which such titles were issued.
The Betag IPMR stipulated that the residents of the municipality have already aired their grievance against the proposed BSU mall project, thus, the present administration must be sensitive on the plight of the people instead of forcing the issue that might open the floodgates of more complicated issues later.
The BSU mall project was approved by the Board of Regents during the term of former president Dr. Rogelio Colting without allegedly passing through the required processes of the institution but his successor Dr. Ben Ladilad refused to implement the aforesaid project because of the alleged defects on the prescribed processes.
However, many local officials and residents were caught by surprise when the present administration seems to be rushing to pursue the implementation of the mall project even without the issuance by the concerned government agencies and the local government of the appropriate permits that will ensure that the developer will strictly comply with the pertinent provisions of existing laws, rules and regulations governing the put up of such structures and such magnitude of development that will be introduced in the congested area of the municipality.
Golocan stipulated that the indigenous peoples are disappointed over the use of their lands for the business interest of a few, thereby depriving them of the supposed benefits of their siblings, thus, their persistence to take back their properties through their legitimate claims.
Photo by Armando M. Bolislis