Subscribe Us

Ilonggo Network

Land tenure in protected areas

The Protected Area Management Board of the Northern Negros Natural Park decided, in its previous meeting, to conduct a thorough evaluation on the status of occupants in the area.

It came out after the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources had issued cease-and-desist orders to 40 persons, who have been found to have constructed vacation houses in the NNNP without permit from the PAMB and the DENR.

Salvador Benedicto Mayor Jomax Ortiz, who is also one of the PAMB members, made that proposal, noting that many occupants and structures are already existing in the NNNP, particularly in his area of jurisdiction.

While NNNP was formerly declared as the Northern Negros Forest Reserve, it has never been spared with settlement, and vast areas are already converted into agriculture. The same is true with the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park, another declared protected area in the province, where thousands of occupants are now enjoying permanent settlement.

There is now a question if these settlements, agriculture and other people-introduced development shall be allowed in these two protected areas in the province, although a certain extent of the MKNP is located in Negros Oriental.

In the late 1980s, when the NIPAS Act was still under consideration, the issue of settlement was one of the most contentious being deliberated, especially so that many people already occupied almost all of the declared national parks and other reserves in the Philippines, at that time.

Experts from various fields have been consulted on possible options that should be undertaken, since relocating these occupants may lead to enormous social issues and challenges, and create volatile peace and order situation.

The concept of social fence was then brought out, which basically turned the issue into opportunity. It was opined that, instead of viewing occupancy in protected areas as a problem, it should be taken as a solution by creating a strong social fence around biodiversity important sites in the country.

The idea of management categories and zoning, buffer zone and land tenure then surfaced, which are now provided in the NIPAS Act, or Republic Act 7586, and its implementing rules and regulations.

Under the existing guidelines, protected areas, like the NNNP and MKNP, may be zoned in two major categories – strict protection zone and multiple-use zone.

As the name implies, strict protection zone is close to all human activities, except for scientific studies and religious ceremonies of the indigenous people. This zone should be dedicated for biodiversity protection and conservation of ecosystem services and other ecological values of protected areas.

Multiple-use zone is designed to accommodate the presence of occupants in the protected areas. However, occupancy has certain restrictions and limitations, since they are still part and parcel of the protected area and may also contain important species, habitats and ecosystem, notwithstanding the possibility that certain portions may be found in hazard and danger areas. Therefore, occupancy and its associated development in NNNP and MKNP are only privileges, and not absolute ownerships.

The multiple-use zone shall comprise areas where settlement, traditional and sustainable land use shall be allowed, including sustainable agriculture, agro-forestry and other income-generating activities and livelihood activities. However, this shall only be made available to tenured migrant communities.

The status of tenured migrants shall be done through survey and registration, or protected area occupants. The household head shall be considered a tenured migrant if proven to have actually continuously occupied a portion of the protected area for five years before its designation as protected area, and solely dependent in the area for subsistence. Therefore, those who may not qualify as tenured migrants shall not be allowed to occupy any part of the multiple-use zone. *

Post a Comment