The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), local government of El Nido, law enforcement agencies and stakeholders conducts inter-agency meeting on Thursday for the implementation of the cease and desist order against Ten Knots Philippines, Inc. (TKPI) in El Nido. (PN file photo)

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) on Thursday formally served its “cease and desist order” to the Ayala Group’s Ten Knots Philippines, Inc (TKPI) in El Nido, but steered away from imposing a complete halt of the company’s tourism operations.

In a press conference, the NCIP said the CDO will only prevent TKPI from selling or titling the Lio Estate in El Nido while the process of consultation is being conducted as provided under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act.

The case stems from a complaint filed long ago by an indigenous group claiming to have ancestral rights over the TKPI-occupied property in Barangays Villa Libertad and Pasadeña, which includes the town’s main airport hub and a commercial complex.

NCIP regional director Marie Grace Pascua said that the CDO, issued as early as March 14, was originally scheduled for implementation on April 23 but was temporary suspended to give way to the Tourism Congress in El Nido.

The CDO was issued by the NCIP for alleged failure of TKPI to secure a free prior and informed consent (FPIC) from a Tagbanua group that claims to have ancestral rights over the property where the company operates in Barangays Villa Libertad and Pasadeña.

Pascua admitted that the newly implemented CDO was modified so as not to disrupt the tourism economy of the town which is now only recovering from the previous travel restrictions. She made it clear that the operation of the airport, hotels, resorts and other tourism establishments will continue.

“Ang magiging enforcement will be no selling of lands in ancestral domains, advertising, and titling. Doon ang implementation ng CDO. Tuloy pa rin ang airport implementations dahil ayaw natin mawalan ng trabaho ang communities,” Pascua said.

“Maraming mawawalan ng trabaho kapag isinara ang airport. Maraming affected na manggagawa considering na El Nido is a tourism destination,” she said.

Caesar Ortega, Director IV of Ancestral Domain Office of NCIP Central Office added that the implementation of the modified CDO is mainly intended to preserve the land while the FPIC process is being completed.

Arnel Abrina, the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Barangay Corong-corong said that imposition of the CDO only implies that NCIP recognizes the other IP group who claims as a legitimate Tagbanua-Tandulanen.

He also emphasized that once TKPI stops its operation, majority of the residents will be affected.

“Kami talaga ay nag-oppose d’yan sa implementation ng CDO kasi it implies na ang grupo na ito [na nagapply ng CDO] ang kinikilala ng NCIP at hindi ang katutubong Cuyunon at Tagbanua-Tandulanen,” Abrina said.

“More than 16,000 ang Cuyunon dito sa El Nido. Kung isasara ang TKPI ay apektado ‘yan pati na ang ibang manggagawa,” he added.

Mayor Edna Lim also asked for an exemption from the NCIP but the commission denied her request stating that the CDO needs to be implemented.

Lim also said the CDO was not consulted at the municipal level.

“Yong pag-issue ng CDO hindi naman ‘yan dumaan [sa akin]. Para bang mahirap pero itatama na natin. Sana tapusin na muna natin itong elections, ako mismo ang bababa [sa kanila]. Ang nakikita ko kasi na umabot tayo sa ganito ay may contest ang Cuyunon at Tagbanua. Magkaroon muna sana ng validation bago tayo magbigay ng CDO,” Lim said.

“El Nido is a tourism destination. Sino ang dadabugan, ako, kasi ako ang mayor. Ang problema dito, parang walang nagrerespeto sa akin dito na dapat sana igalang ninyo ako,” she added.