MARAMAG, Bukidnon -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) finally approved farmers’ application for a Community-Based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA).

The Baclig Farmworkers Association Inc. (Bacfa) has been awarded a CBFMA on a 130-hectare land located at Barangay Panalsalan here.

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In a January 26 letter, former acting secretary Eleazar Quinto wrote to DENR-Northern Mindanao Executive Director Maximo Dichoso of the approval of Bacfa’s CBFMA.

In the letter, Quinto instructed Dichoso “to assist and monitor the compliance of Bacfa of the CBFMA and submit to the DENR Central Office updated report.”

Jeana B. Subalan, Bacfa president, welcomed the news.

“(We are glad that our application was finally approved since we have long wished to take care of the land of our ancestors,” Subalan said.

The land was previously under a Forest Land Grazing Lease Agreement (FLGLA) with the DENR.

In 2008, former DENR secretary Joselito A. Atienza cancelled the FLGLA upon discovering violations made by the previous landowner, Mr. Allan Uy, which exceeded the maximum limit allowed for food production area within the arable portion of the ranch. A big portion of the land has been converted into a pineapple plantation.

In the same year, Bacfa, whose members include Talaandig indigenous peoples living in the area, applied for CBFMA as they started to occupy and plant the remaining undeveloped ranch area found suitable to be disposed through the CBFM program.

The CBFMA is a tenurial instrument that allows upland forest communities to become the “de facto” managers of their land by allowing them to develop, utilize and conserve specific portions of the forest lands within a 25-year production sharing agreement with the DENR.

For Subalan, who is a Talaandig herself, this development was long overdue.

“We have lived here ever since; this is the land of my father and my great grandparents. We have a right to this land,” she said.

Bacfa joins the growing number of CBFM holders in the province. But despite this, there is still much to be done.

Task Force Mapalad-Mindanao estimates that there are still 7,580 hectares of land pending for distribution among 2,551 farmer-beneficiaries, most of whom belong to Bukidnon indigenous tribes.

Data from the DENR, meanwhile, shows that while Bukidnon has a total forest land area of 669,576 hectares, which is divided into 187,548 hectares of production forest and 481,978 hectares of protection forest, only 15 percent or 26,977.9 hectares of the total production forest has CBFM application.