20 January 2010
After many years of struggle and hardship, the rights of the indigenous people (IP) of Botolan to their ancestral domain were formally recognized. This was done through an awarding ceremony of the certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) by Presidential Under Secretary Lorelei C. Fajardo last 14 January 2010 at the covered basketball court in Botolan Town proper. Tribal Chieftain Raul dela Cruz, NAGSIKAP Chairman and Carlito Domulot, Chairman of LAKAS IP Group in Botolan spearheaded the event.
The award recognized what was already theirs by natural and constitutional law - their rightful claim to their ancestral domain. It recognized their lawful claim to 15,000 hectare of land including Mt. Pinatubo land mass and surrounding mountainous areas where the indigenous people have lived for thousands of years.
The gathering was well represented by local, provincial and national government representatives and NGOs that helped advance this initiative of the indigenous people. Different Aeta communities and leaders were also present to witness the historical awarding of the land rights after long years of campaigning to have it approved.
Among those who were present at the ceremony were National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) Officials: Chairman Atty. Eugenio Insigne, Commissioner Rolando Rivera, NCIP 3 Regional Director Salong Sunggod, Ancestral Domain Office (ADO-NCIP) Director Myrna Caoagas. Also present from national and local government were: Zambales 2nd District Congressman Antonio Diaz, Board Member Atty. Wilfredo Pangan, Botolan Vice Mayor Melly Basa, Botolan Municipal Administrator Erlyn Rico, and Municipal Councilor Jesus Jaring.
Support groups like Project Development Institute (PDI) represented by Aurea Miclat-Teves, Executive Director, and Non-Government Organizations like Panlipi represented by Atty. Girlie de Guzman and Preda Foundation represented by Father Shay Cullen, founder & President, were also present.
Father Shay Cullen, gave a powerful speech emphasizing the rights of the indigenous people to this land ever since civilization began in the Philippines and calling on the stakeholders of human rights protection especially the government to help the Indigenous Peoples protect it from land grabbers, especially since Zambales is a hotbed for logging and mining in the Philippines.
Preda has been assisting indigenous groups in Zambales through organizing seminars and workshops for empowerment, educational assistance and fair trading.