In 2012, the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) launched the Biodiversity Partnerships Project (BPP) that links private organizations with local governments to enable and facilitate policies on biodiversity conservation at the municipal and national levels.
One partner, which has been coordinating with BMB since then is the Haribon Foundation, which is the responsible partner (RP) of the Mt. Siburan Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) and Important Bird Area (IBA) of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, of which about 5,000- hectare is an ancestral domain of the Mangyan tribe who co-exist with the globally threatened Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis).
As the RP, Haribon must mainstream biodiversity conservation in local agricultural landscapes. It has already coordinated with the office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) based in Sablayan to obtain endorsement and facilitate the link and engagement between the project and local tribe to implement BPP.
Reynaldo Tupas, the field officer of NCIP-Sablayan shared, “The Tao Buid, a sub-tribe of Mangyan tribe, is the primary concern of this project. They understand the concept of biodiversity because it’s within their own community. They are also the direct managers and proponents [of the forests]. Haribon has been very active in coordinating with us to communicate with this tribe since 2012. Our office was trying to cement an ancestral domain program for the IPs, so we also want to incorporate BPP thrusts to better manage the long-term sustainability of their ancestral lands—the forests.”
In their decision-making, they had to consult all tribes far deep in the forest. Any inconsistencies with the data given were probed to the satisfaction of all tribal councils and the entire community. Any so-called outsiders to whom they call “taong unat” (referring to straight-haired people) and taga-baba/patag (communities living outside the forest) had to earn their trust and respect first. The main goal was to make them actively participate in the formulation of LGU Sablayan’s Forest Land Use Plan (FLUP) and in the implementation of biodiversity-friendly agriculture enterprises in Siburan.
Tupas added, “On the inners [IPs who live in highlands], they analyze their information based on their beliefs, culture and tradition. Maraming proseso ang pinagdadaanan bago sila magbigay ng [There are plenty of processes that has to be done before they give their] final decision.” Soon enough, Haribon became the face of BPP to the IP communities because of its unwavering commitment, honesty, and continuous engagement with them.
Because Tupas himself belongs to Tadyawan tribe, a Mangyan sub-tribe in Oriental Mindoro, he knows first-hand how it is to live as an IP. He shared how they, as a tribe, intrinsically believe that each organism has a vital role and a guiding spirit that they must acknowledge before they take its life. Hunting for example has a ceremonial on its own. They pray and time it according to season. Even cutting off trees for clearing forest lands have the same rituals.
Therefore, it’s only natural for them to participate in conserving and saving the forest because it doesn’t only support all life forms but serves as their home as well. He lamented that it’s the lowlanders that forced and still forcing these tribes to engage in excessive hunting and logging so they could have means to survive in the modern times. The nomadic nature of the Mangyans in general are also changing as they turn the forest into a permanent agriculture area so they could keep up with the lowlanders’ demands which if left unmonitored, would change the forest’s natural elements.
To address this issue, where the indigenous peoples is one of the project partners to implement BPP, the project ensured that their voice and commitment be heard and included in developing strategies on biodiversity-friendly livelihoods and forest governance.
Haribon is committed to implement BPP on Siburan KBA/IBA until December 2015.
To make donations in support of this effort, contact Haribon at 421-1209, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.