NAGTIPUNAN, Quirino: For the Bugkalot tribe, it is a blessed New Year receiving their Certificates of Land Ownership (CLOA) as Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) from Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano.
Covering some 4,600 hectares of resettlement area at Keat and Matmad in this town to be used productively, the CLOA was recently given to around 1,150 ARBs led by Bugkalot chief Rosario Camma, also former mayor of this town.
Camma said the beneficiaries are the actual occupants and tillers from the Bugkalot tribe, and who also forged a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), stating the obligations of each party.
The Bugkalots are Indonesian in origin and are recorded as being among the first people to come to the Philippines, also known as the Italon Tribe, Kadayakans, Egongots or Ipagis and Abacas or Tamsis.
Along with the Agta or Dumagat people, they were among the first inhabitants of the forests of Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya and Aurora provinces who initially built their houses on trees as protection from their enemies.
Until the 1970s, the Bugkalots were a tribe of head-hunters and known as the Ilongots and were more into fishing and hunting in the wilds than in agriculture.
In recent years, the Philippine government has been making efforts to help the Bugkalot tribe resolve some of their problems, particularly in livelihood and inter-tribal relations.
In order to protect the ARBs, provincial agrarian reform officer Arthur Faeldon, said under the MOA, the land given to the Bugkalots will not be sold, transferred or conveyed except through hereditary succession, or to the government.
Faeldon added that the land may also be transferred to the Landbank of the Philippines or to other qualified beneficiaries in consonance with the provision of Republic Act (RA) 8371, or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997.
“The issuance of the certificates is part of the DAR’s mandate of land acquisition and distribution where excess lands of the landlords are being acquired for distribution to the landless,” he said.
According to him, all excess private lands in Quirino province were already acquired and distributed.
The area has been covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in 1991 wherein six collective CLOAsA were issued to qualified ARBs at the time who were co-owners of the land.
As stated under the 1988 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (RA 6657) amended by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension Reforms (RA 9700), collective CLOAs should be issued to individual ARBs.