Helping the Pala’wan indigenous peoples (IP) in Bataraza town remains among the top priorities of the Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) of Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC).
Ernesto Llacuna, manager of the CBNC’s Community Relations Office, said while there have been advances in the recognition of their rights to equality, they continue to face exclusion and marginalization by having limited access to basic services.
He added that though indigenous communities occupy lands and help safeguard Palawan’s biodiversity, only a fraction of these ancestral domains has been officially recognized to be theirs so far.
“We are making ways to help them, to secure their basic rights and make sure they’re included in the development process. However, we also do not want to cause them to be lazy and dependent on us so we came up with micro-financing programs to help them,” Llacuna said.
Started in September 2017 with P150,000 as an initial fund, the CBNC provided three IP groups in Bataraza their support, starting with the Pala’wan tribe members in Barangay Bulalacao who are engaged in pineapple farming.
Anyone in the IP community, he said, can access the enterprise start-up fund to cultivate their pineapple farms on the promise that they will pass or rollover the capital fund to fellow farmers of the fruit crop.
The period of rollover of capital is based on the months the pineapples will grow and be ready for harvest.
The money returned will be used again and passed on to other IPs who will be interested to expand their pineapple farms.
Llacuna added that the enterprise and livelihood program of the CBNC has expansion plans to reach other Pala’wan IPs in Bataraza town.
Among the farmers who have been helped by the CBNC’s is Menardo Mersari, a pineapple farmer and also a member of one of the IP associations.
Mersari said the amount he was able to borrow from the program helped him in cultivating his land which had been idle for years.
“Pasalamat ako sa CBNC dahil kung hindi ako nakahiram ng pondo ay hindi ko malilinis at hindi mapapakinabangan ang ibang porsyon ng aking lupain,” Mersari said.