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“Win-win” solution seen to stem Benguet farmers’ land tenurial rights

Advocacy group Lawyers for Farmers (LFF) is looking into a possible win-win situation between vegetable farmers and the national government administering the Mt. Data National Park.

At a consultation meeting held midweek at the Cabacab Elementary School in barangay Balili here, Atty. Richard Kilaan, lead convenor of LFF said, “for decades now, the vegetable farmers are still considered squatters in the land they farm, despite them being indigenous people who are original settlers of the land.”

“They have been tilling these lands for so long a time yet they could not own it.” Kilaan laments that farmers only have tax declarations and fear is apparent that they may be displaced in the future.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) sometime in 2016 rejected proposals to reclassify the Mt. Data National Park from its current status as a protected park.

The proposal to downgrade the Mt Data’s park status was then recommended by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) to separate the inhabited portions from the remaining woodland.

Mt. Data was declared as a national park by the American colonial government, through Proclamation No. 634 issued on Oct. 8, 1841.

The PAMB proposal according to records was first discussed in the 2012 Asian Development Bank analysis of the country’s Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project.

“We will find a possible solution where our indigenous people farming these lands could ger a chance to own these farm lands and have them titled under their names while they help protect they park and the remaining forest reserve as it will still be an integral park of the eco-system in farming,” Kilaan said. “They protect the forest, they protect the water source for their farms”, he added.

LFF, acting as the legal counsel for the farmers, will review past proposals and decisions on the matter and will be filling another proposal for reclassification of the said farmlands.

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