MANILA, March 4, 2015 – This year, a community of Roman Catholic indigenous people (IP) in Central Luzon will plant 16, 000 seedlings of lumber and high-value fruit-bearing trees on a 300-hectare piece of land, the top official of the foundation overseeing them revealed in a recent interview.
Leased to the IP for 50 years, the government-owned land in Subic, Zambales will provide about 130 Aeta families with sustainable livelihood as they will plant mango, coffee, and cocoa, said Sr. Eva Fidela Maamo, Foundation for Our Lady of Peace Mission, Inc. (FOLPMI) president.
The Ramon Magsaysay Technological University in Iba, Zambales declared support of the Aetas’ farming, helping them achieve optimum productivity, she said.
Nestlé Philippine, in a gesture of support of the Aetas livelihood, assured FOLPMI it will purchase some of the products the Aetas will produce, especially coffee and cacao, Maamo said.
Aside from lumber and fruit-bearing trees, the Aetas will also plant the 300-hectare land with dwarf coconut, she added.
The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and the Columban Fathers had already provided the Aetas with over a thousand coconut seedlings for the project, Maamo said.
The Aetas were relocated by the foundation through the help of benefactors in a resettlement area in sitio Gala, barangay Sacatihan, Subic after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo on June 12, 1991.
FOLPMI bought the relocation site from the money donated by the Jesuits, Maamo said.
The Aetas were then provided food, clothing, medicine, and other basic needs, she added.
After two years of adjustment, members of the Aeta community began converting to the Roman Catholic Church voluntarily, Maamo said.
They read the Bible and renounced prior commitments in their ethnic polygamous culture to embrace Christianity.
“We do not convert,” she said. “We simply allow God to do the conversion. It’s hard to talk about God to people when hungry, sick, and homeless. They have to feel God in others who are fortunate in life.”
The lumber and fruit-bearing tree seedlings were provided by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), she said.
The planting will commence soon after the general planning is finished, she said.
The Aetas can get another lease of 50 years to till the 300-hectare land after the current contract expires, she said. (Oliver Samson/CBCPNews)