Barangay officials protest vs communal forest

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Friday, December 23, 2011


TUBLAY, Benguet – Residents of Ambassador, Tublay protested the accuracy of the proclaimed communal forest as claimed by the surveyors.

A group of surveyors from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) informed the residents of the barangay on the proclaimed communal forest in Patad–el, Km. 18–19 last month.

The group warned the illegal settlers to vacate the communal forest for the implementation of the Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation, Inc. (JVOFI) water system project.

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This created conflicts between the two parties. The natives especially the chieftains disagreed with the proclaimed communal forest as the DENR is claiming.

Officials said the presented communal forest is different from what they knew and what they have been taking care of.

“During our time in 1940s, two rangers - George Gomez and a certain Mc. Gry - from the Bureau of Forestry came and watched the trees. They have been protecting the trees until the World War II begins. So they entrusted us the forest because they have to leave. They told us to watch and protect the forest…” 70-year-old Alipio Catalino said.

Catalino is the oldest official of the barangay knowledgeable on the forest’s history.

He disagreed on the proclaimed communal forest saying, “What they are telling on the proclaimed communal forest is different from what we have been protecting. I, as the last former member of the KingAmbita, don’t agree with it.”

The KingAmbita is an abbreviation of King Solomon, Ambassador Babattan belong Tabeyo. It is an old association of forest native rangers who took care of the communal forest. The organization was founded by an American miner Micheal Anderson.

KingAmbita communal forest is adjacent to the proclaimed communal forest of the government. The DENR then mixed some parts of the communal forest identified by the natives with the proclaimed communal forest to address the problem.

Fifty-five hectares were mixed from the two conflicting communal forests which is now the new communal forest of the government. Claimants were also satisfied with the decision.

Despite the problem, village chief Cruso Daguioa is grateful for being one of the selected beneficiaries of the JVOFI watershed projects in Benguet.

Mayor Ruben Paoad said he will create a fact finding team to investigate further on the case. The assessing team members will be from the community itself as the accurate source of information. (Rubyloida Bitog)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 24, 2011.

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