TEN KNOTS Philippines, Inc. (TKPI), which manages Ayala Land, Inc.’s high-end tourism estate in El Nido, Palawan, said it has all the documentary requirements to operate, but the government agency for indigenous peoples (IP) asserts the company has yet to comply with the mandatory consent for using ancestral land.
TKPI acknowledged that the process for the issuance of a Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the indigenous community is ongoing and that it is cooperating.
“All operating properties of TKPI in El Nido have the necessary titles, permits and licenses. Nevertheless, TKPI has been cooperative with NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples) on the FPIC process,” it said in a statement in response to a BusinessWorld request for comment.
The NCIP’s Palawan provincial office, headed by lawyer Jansen I. Jontila, said consent from indigenous communities can still be demanded for projects that are already operating.
“Under the law, any existing development can still be required to undergo FPIC process,” the office said in an email from the NCIP’s regional office.
Republic Act 8371, the law on IP rights, provides indigenous communities “the right to an informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and implementation of any project, government or private, that will affect or impact upon the ancestral domains and to receive just and fair compensation for any damages which they sustain as a result of the project.”
The NCIP-Mimaropa regional office, which has jurisdiction over Palawan, issued on March 14 a cease and desist order against all TKPI-managed properties, citing the company’s alleged “refusal to undergo the process of the FPIC with the Tagbanuwa Tandulanen IP community.”
NCIP’s Palawan office also said “no compensation paid to the Tagbanuas.”
“Any alleged TKPI community project as part of its image build up is not equivalent to the FPIC consent mandated by law,” it said.
In a statement released by the NCIP regional office on Wednesday, Tagbanuwa Tandulanen leader Maharani Apo Remedios Cabate-Cabral said the tourism development in El Nido has “adversely” affected their land, livelihood such as fishing, and overall way of life.
“We have been barred entry to our own ancestral lands. If we continue to allow this, then very soon our tribe would be squatters in their own ancestral lands,” the IP community leader said.
El Nido Mayor Edna G. Lim, meanwhile, has yet to reply to a request for comment on the issue. — Marifi S. Jara