Solidarity mission in an Aeta community located in Sitio Pidpid, Porac Pampanga
On May 11, Philippine Network of Food Security Programs Inc. (PNFSP) together with its allied organizations, Sandiwa, Tabak, Katribu and CCNCI, spearheaded a solidarity mission in an Aeta community located in Sitio Pidpid, Porac Pampanga. The theme of the activity is “Asserting Peoples’ Right to Food and Ancestral Domain” which is timely both for local and national perspective. With aid from the staff of Holy Family Academy of Angeles City, the group reached the community safe and on time.
The activity was started through a public Eucharistic mass headed by Father Joseph Mallari of Angeles City and youth from an orphanage, the CASA MIYANI, served as choir. Newly hired teachers of Holy Family Academy- Angeles City joined the activity and shared messages of love and hope. After the mass, a simple and meaningful lunch was shared symbolizing unity between the locals and national participants. All were properly armed with a mission to protect the remaining ancestral lands of the Aetas and committed themselves to help said community until all quarrying operations are stop.
After eating lunch, the Manila group conducted an ocular inspection. The aim of the inspection is to validate reports of development aggression, comparative analysis from the recent visit of Sandiwa members and to seek better and concrete alternative for the Aeta community. The group found out how destructive the quarrying operation is. Large portion of the ancestral lands have been torn to pieces, totally wrecked and converted to a desert of pure sand and stones. The river known as “Sapang Uwak” is destroyed and no sign of life may it be fishes, shells and fresh water algae. Before Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 90’s, the river is rich in food and resources. After the catastrophe, according to the villagers, the river recovered slowly on its own. It was in 2010 when Clarete started operating a quarrying operation and systematically followed by T.A.G Mineral Resources Incorporated, Powerzun Quarrying and Trading Inc. and Chinese owned Sandglo Inc.
What is alarming is that said companies are given Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) without any prior notice or decision from Aeta elders. In 2006, a CADT was issued to the Aetas’ of Sitio Pidpid hence clear evidence that they owned the land. How come that said companies were able to receive a CADT despite government issuance of said title to Aetas in 2006? The issue remains the biggest challenge to all elected and appointed officials in the province. The covered ancestral land of Aeta Mag-indi and Aeta Mag-antsi is 18, 659.73 hectares of arable land. But now, according to one of their elders, approximately 500 hectares is left.
Mountains and hills are also insufficient in terms of tree production due to rampant cutting in the past. It affects the water reservoir especially the life of the river. If there’s abundance of trees, there is also abundance of water.
Before leaving the community, a small FGD was conducted. The purpose of said activity is to relay and report what they had discovered and to share some alternatives based on the capacity of the community. Members of the community, especially women Aetas were very attentive and participative in the discussion. They shared their rich experiences, knowledge and struggle.
Everyone who participated committed themselves to help the Aetas in their struggle for the realization of their right to self-determination and ancestral land in various means. “This is not the end. This is only the beginning of our long battle,” a village member articulates during an interview. “We are all sons and daughters of God therefore our task is to be good and dedicated stewards of God,” a religious worker said. Everyone agreed to work hand-in-hand especially in raising awareness, campaign and action in the near future.
There’s a shine of hope reflecting in the eyes of all participants. There was joy, sorrow, mercy and compassion but only one is certain- the struggle of the Aetas is the struggle of all Filipinos. ###
Renmin Crisanta A. Vizconde
Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, Inc (PNFSP)
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