MANILA, Sept. 17, 2015 – A community of Christian Aetas in Zambales signed on Sept. 7 a memorandum of agreement for a Php 600, 000-government grant for the forestation of 100 hectares of protected land in Castillejos town.
According to the MOA, the funds will be used in the production of at least 55,000 narra seedlings and other high-value trees, said Sr. Eva Fidela Maamo, SPC, Foundation of Our Lady of Peace Mission, Inc. (FOLPMI) president.
The MOA was signed by Maamo and Gala Aeta Kulihig Association chairman Eduardo B. Santos. The project is funded by the DENR.
Sources of livelihood
Aside from future ecological benefits, the program will further provide the growing population of Aeta community with sources of living, she added.
According to Maamo, the Aetas are currently engaged in hog and poultry raising, aquaculture, vegetable and fruit farming, and other livelihood undertakings to sustain themselves.
Resettled in over 30 hectares of land in nearby Subic town after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 displaced them from the mountain, the Aetas , who are under the oversight of FOLPMI, have grown today to 130 families or about 700 people, she said.
“We found them homeless, starving, sick, and desperate in the wilderness after the eruption,” Maamo said.
A chapel constructed for them, which has a capacity to hold about 100 hundred people, she observed, can no longer accommodate their present number.
Maamo said, “We did not convert them. They voluntarily converted after they saw the providence of God in the livelihood programs and education we give them.”
They also have given up polygamy, she added.
FOLPMI, currently chaired by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and formerly by Fr. James Reuter, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will oversee the Aetas’ said reforestation of the 100-hectare protected land. (Oliver Samson / CBCP News)