Boracay indigents ‘must unite to assert rights’

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Locals out of jobs who applied to a monthly aid program by the Department of Labor and Employment are seen cleaning out the green algae along Boracay’s white beach. CNN PHILIPPINES / JP TALAPIAN

BORACAY – Two groups of indigenous peoples in this famed island destination were encouraged to unite so that their rights would be “ensured and recognized.”

Indigenous peoples (IPs) lawyer Junbert Dimagiba said when “indigenous groups become united, they could assert their rights and make representations in the government.”

He added that uniting will “empower” the groups “to set their directions for the future of Boracay.”

Boracay has two indigenous groups – one composed of atis and the other, of tumandoks.

Representatives from these groups were invited to a meeting over the weekend which tackled Republic Act (RA) 8371, or The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997.

Dimagiba said the IPs must be aware of their constitional rights.

Boracay was ordered shut beginning April 26 for a half-year rehabilitation. During the rehabilitation, illegal settlers in wetlands and some areas in the island were displaced.

Some of these belong to the 31 tumandok families in the island, according to Environment secretary Roy Cimatu.

“The tumandok family would be relocated – the reason that I have asked the DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) to include them in the lists [of agrarian reform beneficiaries],” said Cimatu during the fourth congressional hearing of the Committee on Natural Resources last month.

The local government of Malay, Aklan has confirmed it won’t provide a relocation site for families displaced by the ongoing demolition of illegal structures in the island resort.

“We have no relocation site for them. Ang amon, we will remove people who are ara sa lugar nga indi sila dapat,” said Rowen Aguirre, municipal executive assistant for Boracay affairs..

Meanwhile, Datu Elorde – a member of the ati community in Boracay – said the inter-agency task force assigned to “reverse” Boracay’s poor environmental condition has “discriminated and harassed” them.

“Several of us were not allowed re-entry to Boracay because they do not have identification cards,” Elorde said./PN

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