Atok village seeks approval for oleoresin project

A VILLAGE in Atok, Benguet is asking the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Cordillera and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to allow a private company to extract oleoresin.

The residents of Barangay Topdac, Atok recently gave their nod to village chief Crosby Ingosan to sign a memorandum of agreement with a private firm for an oleoresin extraction project covering nearly 253 hectares in sitios Japa, Nalseb, Proper and Patapat.

Oleoresin is a mixture of oil and resin that can be extracted from plants. Resin is a sticky liquid and organic substance, locally known as "nicket" or "ole".

The resin is used as a raw material for manufacturing cosmetics such as nail polish and products such as paint, varnish, ink, and spoon.

The four sitios entered into a MOA with a private firm in June last year and this early, are seeking renewal of the agreement.

Under the MOA, the firm will respect the residents’ right to allow oleoresin tapping within their properties.

The agreement added in the event the activity becomes a losing proposition, the tappers have the option to stop without liability to the technology provider.

According to the MOA, 90 percent of the sale will be given to the land owner while the remaining 10 percent will be shared by the barangay and the private firm.

During the interviews conducted by the NCIP validation team, Topdac residents have long been practicing oleoresin tapping as an additional source of income during the 1970s but operations stopped due to higher forest fire incidents.

"Because of the ever changing times where modern technologies are being discovered everyday, they sought for the aid of DENR. The IPs of Topdac initiative in seeking the assistance of the DENR quantifies their willingness in effect delegating their representation to barangay captain Ingosan to transact for an agreement. Said willingness and delegation from the IPs of Topdac erodes the notion the barangay is a dummy of DENR," the NCIP said in its field validation report.

The validation report concluded that the proposed oleoresin tapping in Topdac is in consonance with Section 39 of NCIP Admin Order No.3 s. 2012 and does not require FPIC and is subject to validation which states "activities solicited or initiated by the concerned IPs themselves where the activity is strictly for the delivery of basic services to be undertaken within or affecting the ancestral domain, do not require compliance with the FPIC requirement."

"With respect to their due right to self-determintion, IPs, as well enshrined in the MOA, are given the free and candid choice in determining what is best for their respective properties. In its provision, IPs/ICCs are given the choice and are free from any vices of consent that would compel or force them to extract oleoresin from the trees within their property,"concluded the report.

On February 23, NCIP regional director Attorney Roland Calde recommended to strengthen the MOA and for the Benguet Pine Oleoresein tapping be signed by all IP land owner applicants before issuing the certificate of pre-condition.

"This is in order to elude parties from the imminent ills of greed at the expense of their environment. Said commitment will not only shield the environment from degradation but will also serve as protection for the IPs themselves," he added.

As required by law, no permit for the exploration, utilization and development of natural resources be granted by the concerned government agency without a certificate of precondition from the NCIP or without first obtaining the FPIC of the ICCs/IPs.

Meanwhile, Board Member Florencio Bentrez suggested for the body to pass a legislative action regulating the tapping activity in the province.

Board Member Juan Nazarro said they have asked for a study to see the actual effect of the oleoresin tapping.

"If we are able to see that it would not affect the trees then why would we ban the livelihood of the people," said the lawmaker. "We still don't have a final decision whether or not to ban or regulate the oleoresin proposal projects."
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