MANILA, Nov. 13, 2012— Lamenting the government’s inaction to their appeal, a Catholic nun who has been helping the Ati tribe’s fight for their ancestral land in Boracay said they feel ‘helpless’.
Sr. Herminia Sutarez of the Daughters of Charity has been working with the Atis for four years and said efforts to get the government on their side were futile.
She said the Atis are worried about their fate in Boracay, which was originally their home, but were displaced starting in the 1970s when tourists and investors started to descend on the island.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) said it was doing all it could to help the Atis but the missionary said the case must be settled because the indigenous people have long been struggling.
“We are appealing to the government to really make a stand about this,” said Sutarez.
The nun also lamented the incident when a group of 20 armed men who are allegedly employees of Crown Regency Boracay destroyed parts of a perimeter fence of the Ati community last Nov. 4.
Armed with shotguns and handguns, the security guards of the Cebu-based J. King and Sons Co. Inc., which claims ownership of the land, forcibly entered the area and reportedly threatened the IPs.
Dexter Condez, spokesman of Boracay Ati Tribal Organization, condemned the “attack”, adding that there were children in their community who were terrified.
“We ask them to fight fairly and not through intimidation and firearms,” said the 25-year old Condez. “We will continue this fight and we will not surrender.”
After 12 years since they filed petition to have legal possession of their ancestral land, the NCIP awarded the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title in January 2011 to the 200 members of the tribe.
Even if the NCIP has not yet issued a writ of possession to them, the Atis have been occupying parts of the 2.1-hectare property in Manoc-Manoc covered by the CADT since last April.
Sutarez also called on President Benigno Aquino III to intervene on the issue and help the IPs claim their ancestral land.
“We think that the President is the only one that can finally resolve this issue,” she said.
The CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace earlier called on the government not to forget that “before the onset of these enterprises were the tribespeople”.
“Boracay should be beautiful not only for its beaches but most of all because of its people that respect and promote the rights of the marginalized and the minorities,” said Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Nassa chairman. (RL/CBCPNews)