KASAMA Vol. 10 No. 3 / July-August-September 1996 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Mangyans Say Our Rights First Before Tamaraw Concerns

"Mabuti pa ang hayop, may batas para sa kanila, pero kaming Mangyan, binabalewala. (Animals are better off, there are laws for them. We, Mangyans, are ignored.)," said Enrique Tupaz, a Tadyawan and a worker of the Roman Catholics’ Mangyan Mission Foundation in Caplapan, Mindoro.

Tupaz and other members of the Mangyan tribes spoke to NORDIS when they were in Baguio City last May 1 for a cultural exposure.

Tupaz was referring to the tamaraw (Anoa Mindorensis), a wild buffalo found only in Mindoro, which has been receiving much attention since an international alarm was raised on its endangered status.

The Mangyans, composed of seven tribes: the Tadyawan, Alangan, Tan B’uid, Iraya, Buhid, Hanunuo, and Gubatnon, are the first people of Mindoro. Today, they number only about 78,000 or approximately 9% of Mindoro’s 832,642 population. Most of them were pushed to the hinterlands because of the continued encroachment by the non-Mangyan into their territory.

In November 1990, Philippine Republic Act No. 6148 declared the Mindoro National Park in an effort to save the tamaraw, estimated to number less than 200 that year.

"The Mangyans are angry at the tamaraw because the government is more concerned with the wild buffalo’s preservation than listening to their plight as a people," said Dave de Vera of the Philippine Association for International Development (PAFID).

But Tupaz said the Mangyans’ values can assure the continued existence of the tamaraw if the government will just respect the tribes’ rights over their ancestral domain. The different Mangyan tribes believe that the tamaraw belongs to the forest god. It is not to be hunted and killed. Its number only dwindled with the entry of logging and outsiders.

Despite debates whether they should apply for Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claim or not, the Mangyans, with the help of the PAFID, are delineating their ancestral domain through a land survey instrument that makes use of satellites.

Mangyan coalitions have come out with the position not to recognise any government land programs, including declared protected areas, until their ancestral domain rights are assured. The Buhid, the largest of the Mangyan tribes, surveyed 92,128 hectares as its ancestral domain. Their domain includes government-proposed protected areas: the Mangyan Heritage Park and a Tamaraw Gene Pool.

Michael Umaming/Northern Dispatch-NORDIS 

NORDIS is a weekly packet of news, features and analysis produced by the Cordillera Resource Center, Suite 314, Laparal Building, Session Rd., Baguio City, Philippines 2600