Board Member Al Nashier Ibba has expressed concern over what he described as a “pattern of harassment and intimidation” being suffered by residents of Maria Hangin Island in Balabac.

In a privileged speech on Tuesday, Board Member Ibba called on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to speed up the processing of the indigenous residents’ ancestral domain claim on the island to resolve an intensifying land conflict in the area.

Ibba noted the concern raised by the community leader and urged government agencies to assist.

“Ang lider ng kanilang komunidad na si Oscar Pelayo ay nagpahayag ng matinding pag-aalala tungkol sa posibleng karahasan at kaguluhan. Ang mga katutubo ay kinakabahan para sa kanilang kaligtasan at kinabukasan,” he said.

Tension gripped the island when armed men, believed by the community to be members of the security force of San Miguel Corporation (SMC), fired their guns during a confrontation with the locals last week.

SMC has denied any role in the shooting incident and stated that it has no property holdings or ongoing projects in Maria Hangin, a sitio of Barangay Bugsuk.