The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Region 12 has directed field officials to look into the reported encroachment by certain groups of areas covered by Certificates of Stewardship Contracts (CSC) issued by the DENR under its Integrated Social Forestry Program (ISFP).
DENR-Region 12 Director Datu Tungko Saikol issued the directive in the wake of complaints aired by CSC holders during the Regional People’s Organizations Strengthening and Capability-Building Seminar held last week in Barangay Tambler, General Santos City.
A member of Kabalantian Farmers Association Inc. (Kafai), who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that a tribal group from Bukidnon province has allegedly encroached on their Integrated Social Forestry (ISF) project area, which covers more than 5,402 hectares.
Kafai is a rural workers association registered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), with members numbering close to 200. The members, mostly Ilongos with some belonging to the Manobo-Kulamanon tribe, are claiming prior rights over the area by virtue of the Certificate of Stewardship Contract issued by the DENR in 1997.
The encroachment by the unnamed tribal group from a nearby town has allegedly brought instability in some parts of Barangay Kabalantian, the northernmost barangay of Arakan town in North Cotabato.
The farmer said some of the ISF beneficiaries who have the means had resorted to “pay outs” in order to free themselves from trouble. This practice, though, has encouraged more adverse claimants, according to him.
He called on local and national leaders to help his group to solve their predicament and “get what rightfully belongs to us and in order for us to live and work peacefully.”
Another farmer from Bagumbayan in Sultan Kudarat Province also brought to the attention of the DENR the alleged encroachment of a mining company conducting an exploration on their project area.
“We were surprised to see a sign board of GRCO Mining within our project area which is covered by our CRMF,” the farmer said. CRMF stands for Community Resource Management Framework Plan.