Itogon reiterates IP right to forest wealth-A A +A
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
THE town council of Itogon and the Benguet Provincial Board (PB) are at odds after the local body insisted on its ordinance, which the board earlier rejected because it seems to amend an existing national law.
The Municipal Council lashed back at the Benguet PB’s reason of refusal to approve its ordinance allowing Indigenous Peoples (IP) to cut trees through its representative Board Member Johnny Waguis, who hails from Itogon.
Waguis explained the side of the provincial legislative body in insisting its ordinance despite its earlier rejection.
With the insistence of the local council, Vice Governor Crescencio Pacalso showed his frustration saying, “This is the first time an SB (Sangguniang Bayan) refused to accept our comments.”
Board Member Juan Nazarro Jr. said if they will approve the ordinance, it will create double jeopardy in every violation because the offenders will be penalized under two orders and it will be implied that the person involved violated two orders.
He added that the prosecutors of the violators might be confused on which law should he implement; the local or the national.
Vice Mayor Noel Ngolob, who presided the council earlier said they, as members of the legislative body, have the rights to create measures for the convenience of their people like allowing forest trees to IPs for emergency purposes.
He explained the ordinance aims to shorten the long procedures in cutting trees when badly needed by cultural traditions like burial.
On the first week of November 2012, the PB chaired by Vice Governor Pacalso rejected the town’s ordinance 256 titled, “An ordinance on the availment of forest products for customary practices in relation to the death of an indigenous member of the municipality” which aims to allow IPs to cut trees for cultural related activities.
However, IPs should secure first a certification to cut trees from the Office of the Mayor before cutting. The IPs honored to cut trees within the municipality are Ibaloi, Kankanaey, Kalanguya and Iowak.
The local order further provides a person found cutting trees without proper certification will be penalized with imprisonment of six months and be fined at a maximum of P2,500. The gravity of the penalty will be determined by the court.
During the early session of the board, Pacalso questioned the penalty which is different from the Forestry code. “[Town officials] should apply the national penalty.”
“I don’t believe on such (low) penalties,” commented Board Member Apolinario Camsol.
The presiding officer then recommended the board to return the ordinance to Itogon council for further amendment of the penalties.
After a long debate yesterday, the board vowed to the arguments of the proponent with the assurance from Waguis that [town officials] will observe the aftereffects of the proposed law. After the experimental time, Waguis said they will soon introduce amendments if needed.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 22, 2013.