(Photo from Eazytraveler)

A people’s organization in Balabac has expressed opposition to a planned eco-tourism project of San Miguel Corporation/Bricktree Properties in a 5,568-hectare property in Bugsok and Sebaring Islands in Balabac, claiming it to be part of their ancestral land.

The Sambilog-Balik Bugsuk Movement (SBBM), in a statement, asked the Department of Agrarian Reform to discontinue its planned public hearing on the project.

“Ang isla ng Bugsuk ay lupaing ninuno na inagaw sa aming mga ninuno, pati na mga kasamahang tradisyunal na magsasaka at mangingisda noong 1974 ng makapangyarihang negosyante na si Danding Cojuangco, sa pamamagitan ng marahas na pang-aagaw ng mga lupain sa panahon ng Batas Militar,” the group stated.

Jomy Callon, president of SBBM, said that the residents of the islands have been victims of land grabbing and forced evictions from their homes and sources of livelihood. He said that carrying out any activity without their permission is a continuous violation of their human rights and their right to manage their ancestral land.

He claimed that for over 50 years, they have been victims of land grabbing, forced out of their homes and areas where their livelihoods are located on the islands of Bugsuk and Pandanan.

Callon’s group further stated that any activities concerning their ancestral lands, conducted without their knowledge and authority, are violations of their rights.

“Ang gusto namin ay kasunduan rin, katulad nung nakaraang hearing, hinamon namin sila na kanila na yung napagkunan na nila, hindi na namin papakailaman pero yung mga natitirang lupa ay sana naman mapapakinabangan ng mga mahihirap na magsasaka at mangingisgda kasi nabubuhay lang naman sila dyan,” he added.

“Nung 1974, nakaranas ang buong Pilipinas ng martial law, pero sa totoo lang, doon sa amin sa Bugsuk Island, hanggang ngayon, martial law pa rin. Kasi mula noong inagawan kami ng lupa, hanggang ngayon inagawan kami ng karagatan. Tapos ngayon ang natitirang lupa na siyang pinagtatayuan namin ng bahay at doon kami naghahanap buhay ay gusto pa kunin ng San Miguel Corporation. Sa totoo lang, wala kaming kinuha na ari-arian, kami ang kinunan, hindi na lang sila nahiya,” Callon added.

The group also demanded the return of some 10,821 hectares to their ancestral domain claim and its inclusion under the agrarian reform program.

San Miguel Corporation/Bricktree Properties has not yet released a statement in response to the indigenous people’s bid to stop the proposed project.