The statement, signed by Timuay Tuno Bernardo, Timuay Rafael Pandalan and Timuay Bakil Gumandao, furthered that “Reclaiming what is left remains to be our toughest struggles because it is continuously denied and deprived (from) us."
The protest-rally, dubbed as “peaceful assembly and cultural presentation,” collectively brought the sentiments of the Subanon people in the city against their so-called “toughest struggle on their claim for the ancestral domains.”
The protesters, composed of farmers, women and youth staged a protest infront of the Zamboanga City Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (Ecozone) at Barangay San Ramon then trooped to the regional office of NCIP and the City Council.
They claimed that their ancetral lands totalling 9,000 hectares located in the mountain barangays (villages) of Patalon, Labuan and Limpapa were allegedly encroached by the Ecozone.
One of the protesters said their mass action is their way of expressing the realities, hope and aspirations, and their assertion of their rights as Indigenous Peoples toward their ancestral lands.
Meanwhile, Georgina Yu, Ecozone Chair and Administrator, was quoted by media as denying the protesters' claim, saying that the areas the Subanon group are claiming had been legally designated to Ecozone through Presidential Proclamation 1099 signed by former President Joseph Estrada.
Yu explained that as far as they are concerned, they are simply abiding by the law and that they observe the rule of law and the legal basis of it is through that Presidential Proclamation.
But the group denounced what they claim to be the “unreliability” of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) to protect their rights.
NCIP was created under IPRA, which is supposed to be responsible for formulation and implementation of policies, plans and programs of government to recognize, promote and protect the right of the IPs.
Among these rights are the controversial Right to Ancestral Domain and Lands; Right to Self-Governance and Empowerment; Social Justice and Human Rights; and the Right to Cultural Integrity.