NGP transforms life timber poacher to forest defender
By Eric F. Gallego
BUTUAN CITY, Apr. 11 (PIA) - A complete transformation from being notorious timber poachers into defenders and protectors of forest by a group of lumads in Barangay Padi-ay, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur is unfolding before the eyes of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 13 officials as offshoot of the National Greening Program (NGP) of the government.
“I am happy to know that the NGP has able to change the behavior and attitude of a group of Indigenous People known for their notoriety as illegal loggers and poachers,“ DENR 13 regional director Nonito M. Tamayo said.
Tamayo was referring to the Sibagat Federation of Tribal Community Agro Farmers Development Association, Inc. (SFTCAFDAI), a group of 21 peoples organizations ( PO) headed by Arnold M. Acebido also known as Datu Subang who called on him at his office early this week to personally convey the agreement reached by the leaders of the federation in the “pulong-pulong” they conducted that night. The federation, in a show of sincerity and appreciation to the NGP, would like to confer upon DENR Secretary Ramon JP Paje and Director Tamayo the title of “Datu” and “adopted brothers” of the Manobo tribe under the jurisdictions of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) No. 116 covering 20,000 hectares and CADT 039 covering an area of 51,000 hectares.
According to Datu Subang their lives have been changed completely to better owing to the NGP of Secretary Paje.
He said the whole members and families of the Manobo indigenous people of the two CADTs are forever grateful to Secretary Paje who introduced the program to the tribe through the DENR Regional officials.
“We thought in previous years that no government program was good enough to solve our financial needs until the implementation of NGP in our area proved us wrong." Datu Subang said. “We realized the NGP is more beneficial,“ he added.
Datu Subang is now maintaining a 70-hectare coffee plantation in barangay Padi-ay, where virgin forests are still intact. “Realizing that I am being left behind among my neighbors of the packages of opportunities to earn income through the NGP offered by the DENR, I finally joined the stream,” he said.
He said new learnings about business opportunities through cash crop plantation like coffee was shared by Senator Bam Aquino in a seminar. Hence, he said, the 21 chairmen of their federation went with him to attend a short course about sustainable coffee plantation at Musuan State University sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry.
Fresh from the seminar, Datu Subang requested for coffee seedlings of Arabica and robusta varieties which he planted in between the trees on a virgin-forest land in that mountain village. “Since the trees are very helpful in the growth of coffee, we never thought of cutting but protected and preserved them,“ he said.
Datu Subang said at the height of illegal logging activities in Agusan del Sur, the members of the federation were engaged in timber poaching. “We cut those trees inside our ancestral domain,” he said.
“We felt bitter when EO 23 was imposed by the DENR hence, we could no longer trade freely those trees that we harvested,” Datu Subang said. He said that he even bought a bulldozer to scrape those standing trees in that vast virgin forest lands but he decided to resell the heavy equipment at a much lower price when he thought otherwise the DENR operatives will catch their activities up sooner or later.
He said the members of the federation are fully convinced of the NGP. They are maintaining at least 1,200 hectares of rubber and coffee plantation in that area. “We are waiting for the right season to harvest coffee," said Datu Subang. By that time, he said, most of the members of the federation will be millionaires.
Director Tamayo on the other hand offered the technical expertise of the DENR to develop the area through the NGP. “We can still develop more areas for expansion of the coffee and rubber trees within the ancestral domain of Datu Subang,“ he said.
Director Tamayo said the DENR has intensified the anti-illegal logging drive in Caraga Region which is aimed at eliminating timber poaching and illegal logging activities by June 30, 2015.
He said Datu Subang could enlist some members of the federation to be trained and deputized as forest officers to strengthen the campaign. (DENR-Caraga/PIA-Caraga)