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Historical Background of Ancestral Lands

A. Arrival of the Negritos and Austronesians (3000 BC)
B. Establishment of indigenous kingdoms (Tondo, Madya-as, Manila, Namayan, Butuan,
Cebu, Maguindanao, and Sulu) and small communities
C. Arrival of Spaniards and distribution of lands to the friars; lands of the natives were lost,
but the unreachable communities in the mountains were not touched
D. Americans redistributed the lands to the Filipinos and reached for the “Non-Christian
tribes” to develop their communities, but the indigenous people (IP) were not given
land titles
E. Because the IPs have maintained their lands and it is a heirloom from their ancestors,
they wanted their lands back to their hands
F. 1946-1997 – a long process of establishing and abolishing of different government
agencies and laws for the indigenous communities
G. 1997 – RA 8371 was signed, creating the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples,
including the rights to their ancestral lands.

II. Mandate: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (RA 8371)

A. Rule III: Rights to Ancestral Domains/Lands

1. Ancestral Domains
• All areas generally belonging to ICCs/IPs
• Comprising lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and natural resources therein
• Include ancestral lands, forests, pastures, residential, agricultural, and other lands
individually owned, hunting grounds, burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of
water, mineral and other natural resources
• ICCs’ /IPs’ private but communal property which belongs to all generations and
shall not be sold, disposed nor destroyed.

2. Rights of ICCs/IPs to Ancestral Domains

• Right to Ownership
a. ICCs/IPs have rights of ownership over lands, waters, and natural resources and
all improvements made by them at anytime within ancestral domains/lands
b. Includes, but not limited to: right over the fruits, to posses, to use, to consume,
to exclude, and to recover ownership

• Right to Development
a. ICCs/IPs have the right to control, manage, develop, protect, conserve and
sustainably use: a) land, air, water and minerals; b) plants, animals and other
organisms; c) collecting, fishing and hunting grounds; d) sacred sites; and e)
other areas of economic, ceremonial and aesthetic value.
b. Must be in accordance with the indigenous knowledge systems and practices
and customary laws and traditions
c. Must agree with the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection

• Right to Benefits
a. Right to benefit from utilization, extraction, and use of development of lands,
and natural resources within their ancestral lands/domains and to be
compensated for any social and/or environmental cost of such activities
b. At least 30% of all funds received from such activities will be allocated to the
ICC/IP community for development projects or provision of social services or
• Right to Stay in Territories

• Right to Regulate Entry

a. The ICCs/IPs shall have the right to regulate the entry of migrants, including
organizations who intend to do business, engage in development or other form
of activities, in their ancestral domains/lands.

• Right to Safe and Clean Air and Water

a. the ICCs/IPs have the right to regulate activities that may adversely affect their
airspace, bodies of water and lands.

• Right to Claim Parts of Reservations

a. ICCs/IPs have the right to claim ancestral domains, or parts thereof, which have
been reserved for various purposes.

3. Ancestral Lands
• Refers to land, subject to property rights within the ancestral domains
• Shall consist of, but not be limited to, residential lots, rice terraces or paddies,
private forests, swidden farms, and tree lots.

4. Rights of ICC/IPs to Ancestral Lands

• Right to Transfer Land or Property

a. The various indigenous modes of acquisition and transfer of property between
and among members of the ICCs/IPs shall be recognized as legal, valid and
b. Indigenous property rights arising from marriages between IPs and non-IPs shall
be governed by customary laws of the IP spouse. The non-IP spouse shall have
usufructuary rights thereto for the maintenance and support of the family.

• Right to Redemption
a. Transfer of ancestral lands by IPs to non-IPs attended by vitiated consent or
made for an unconscionable price shall, upon investigation and proof thereof,
be declared null and void ab initio and the transferor has the right to redeem the
property within a period of fifteen years from the date of transfer.

• Right to Formal Recognition of Native Title to Ancestral Lands

5. Responsibilities of ICCs/IPs to ancestral lands

• Maintain Ecological Balance

a. Based on their indigenous and traditional practices, ICCs/IPs shall formulate
and implement their respective systems for protecting and conserving the flora
and fauna, watershed areas, sacred places and all other objects of ritual and
ecological importance in order to preserve, restore and maintain a balanced
ecology within their ancestral domains.

• Restore Denuded Areas

a. The concerned ICCs/IPs, in collaboration with appropriate government
agencies, shall restore denuded areas within their ancestral domains.
B. FAQ’s
1. Is it allowed to sell ancestral domains and lands to non-IPs?
 Selling ancestral domains and ancestral lands to non-IPs is not allowed. An
ancestral domain is a community; therefore it can never be sold. It can be leased,
depending on the parties involved. i.e. for mining projects, Globe/Smart towers. An
ancestral land is private property of indigenous peoples since time immemorial;
therefore it can never be sold, unless their tradition allows it.

2. What places are ancestral domains?

 All provinces of Cordillera Autonomous Region are ancestral domains. A part of
SBMA coincided with an ancestral domain of Aetas. They had a joint memorandum
agreement with the developer. Also, other developed ancestral domains can be
found at Tanay, Rizal, Tarlac and Bulacan.

3. What type of developments can be done to ancestral domains?

 Ancestral domains/lands can be leased for: hydroelectric plant, geothermal plant,
coal exploration, forest, land grazing, signal towers (Smart/Globe), road widening
projects, transmission lines, infrastructures, CBFM (community based forest
management) agreement, etc. Developments are allowed in ancestral lands
depending on the traditions of the IP’s and the agreements between the IP’s and
the developers.

4. So far, are there any conflicts or legal cases regarding ancestral domains?
 So far there aren’t any conflicts or legal cases in court regarding ancestral

Case Studies: Pinatubo Aetas

They are also called Aetas or Agtas, and they belong to the Negrito group – one of the six
major ethnographic groups in the Philippines. They are an indigenous people (IP) who live in
scattered, isolated, and mountainous parts of Luzon; the Pinatubo Aetas particularly can be found at
Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales.

Their land of origin in the mountains and forests of Mt. Pinatubo is not only for sustenance, it is
home to their identity and culture. The Aetas have long considered the surrounding of Mt. Pinatubo
as their dwelling place. According to oral traditions, ancestors inhabited the land around Mt. Pinatubo
before the Spanish occupation.

The human development of ethnic groups (i.e. Aetas) must consist of the freedom to assert
cultural identity and economic and political empowerment.

Aetas and their CADT

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (PGMA) co-authored the Ancestral Domain Bill
when she was still a senator; this bill led to the enactment of RA 8371 or IPRA (Indigenous
(Indigenous Peoples
Rights Act)
Act) of 1997.

Certificate(s) of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) guarantees protection of the IP’s rights on their
ancestral domains as mandated by IPRA. PGMA awarded CADT covering 10,323 hectares to Aetas
of Bamban, Tarlac and Mabalacat, Pampanga. By the distribution of CADT, Aetas will benefit from
the income generated by the development of their ancestral lands.
"Now you can start developing your land. No one will disrupt you now. If anyone wants to invest
in your land, then they have to pay rental,"
rental the President said in the Pampango dialect.

Aetas in Mabalacat, Pampanga and the Clark Freeport Zone

The Clark Development Corporation (CDC) is a development that uses part of an ancestral
land of Aetas, specifically Sacobia Valley. They developed the Clark Freeport Zone at Pampanga.

The ancestral domain in Bamban and Mabalacat are within the Clark Freeport Zone. There
was a decade of conflict with the Aetas and the Clark Development Authority starting when former
Pres. Ferdinand Marcos established the Sacobia Development Authority in their area without
consulting the Aetas.

The conflict was resolved with a Joint Memorandum Agreement (JMA) signed between CDC
and the Aetas last December 6, 2007, which approves the Next Frontier Project in Sacobia Valley.
The document provides for the respect of the ancestral domain rights of IPs and the mandate of the
CDC, with sharing of benefits at 80-
80-20 in favor of CDC and priority employment to IPs for locators
within their ancestral domain.

Today, Aetas own approx. 10,323 hectares in Sacobia Valley.

Aetas in Olongapo and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority

The Aetas opposed the alleged plan of Korean shipbuilding firm, Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.
(HHIC), at SBMA to slash 500 hectares of their ancestral domain and turn it into a golf course at
Pastulan village, Hermosa, Bataan. They claimed they were not informed and that the golf course will
destroy the environment.

This issue was publicized by the media last 2009, with Palafox Associates’ Principal Architect,
Felino A. Palafox Jr., condemning the said project for its plan of massive tree-cutting.

Inside SBMA, Aetas were given CADT for more than 4,355 hectares of land.

Aetas in Zambales and

and the Puyat Estate

In June 12-16, 1991, Mt. Pinatubo eruption made homeless 7,800 Aeta families. They were
relocated in resettlement and evacuation centers in surrounding barangays during the Mt. Pinatubo
eruption – some stayed, some went back to their lands around the volcano.

When they went back to their lands around Mt. Pinatubo, part of their domain was titled to
Vicente Puyat who later sold it to The Manila Banking Corporation (TMBC). The so-called Puyat
Estate was the most fertile and developed area for agriculture around the volcano.

According to Aetas’ oral accounts, they have been waging war against a ranchero claiming
their land way back in 1957. On 1960-1970, they started paying land taxes without proper knowledge
of its purpose – this became a basis for the legal sale of the land to a buyer - then CAREBI Sugar
Central came along with some papers.
In 1980 an Amaya Corp. operated through a lease in the land. There came rumors that a
certain Atty. Yalong would assist the Aetas in titling the land, but the land was captured after the
CAREBI, revealing Atty. Yalong’s ulterior motives were to trick the Aetas into turning the land over to a
private owner.

Presently the property is recorded in 48 private titles – 2 under Bukidnon Greenfields (989
hectares) and 46 under Aquatic Ranch Enterprise Inc. (1250 hectares). These landholdings have
been sold at a public auction to TMBC, but recent records say TMBC is under BSP (Bangko Sentral
ng Pilipinas), meaning Puyat Estate is now a government property or a public domain.

Prior to 1991 eruption DAR already made effort to cover the Puyat property via CARL
(Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law);
Law) a number of the beneficiaries were Aetas. CARL and ADC
(Ancestral Domain Claim) come with government assistance and development programs –
apparently, these were not given to the Aetas.

For the Aetas, the real value of a land is its capacity to produce plants and crops, to provide
food for their families; Land’s character as a titled property is secondary to its being something that
people can work on and develop – this is why the Aetas are persistent on reclaiming their land which
Puyat took away from them. Since it is the most fertile and agriculturally ideal, the Puyat Estate’s
value is great for the Aetas.

Ancestral Domain
Domain vs. Private Ownership

In 1996 four CADC’s (Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claim) were awarded to Aetas of
Botolan, Zambales, with a total area of 44,803 hectares at barangays Poonbato, Villar & Burgos, San
Felipe, Cabangan. These CADC’s provide rules for identification, delineation and recognition of
ancestral lands and ancestral domains. However, it does not guarantee the tenurial right of the

In 1997, the IPRA (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act) was made a Republic Act (8371). Through
this, indigenous peoples can avail the title of ownership of for their ancestral domains and lands.

Presently, Aetas just have a CADC and yet to apply for CADT (titled ownership), except for the
2,223 ha Puyat Estate, which they can’t easily reclaim using the IPRA because of Section 56 IPRA
Existing Property Rights Regimes:
Regimes Property rights within the ancestral domains already existing and/or
vested upon affectivity of this Act shall be recognized and respected.

Puyat Estate’s Private Ownership can be countered

countered by:

• IPRA Sect.8B Right to Redemption - In cases where it is shown that the transfer of
land/property rights by virtue of any agreement or devise, to a non-member of the
concerned ICCs/Ips is tainted by the vitiated consent of the ICC’s/IP’s shall have the right to
redeem the same within a period not exceeding fifteen (15) years from the date of transfer.
• IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations) - Transfer of ancestral lands by IP’s to non-IP’s
attended by vitiated consent or made for an unconscionable price shall, upon investigation
and proof thereof, be declared null and void ab initio and the transferor has the right to
redeem the property within a period of fifteen years from the date of transfer. In case of
fraudulent transactions, the redemption period shall be reckoned upon the discovery of the
Consent is deemed vitiated when given through the error or mistake, violence, intimidation,
undue influence, fraud or deceit. The price is considered unconscionable when the amount
compared to the value of the property is so disproportionate as to be revolting to human

To reclaim the Puyat Estate, Aetas must:

1. Present an account on the possibly anomalous nature of transaction between the Aetas and
2. Determine the date of transfer, in which main consideration is that it took place within period of
15 years
3. File a petition documenting the anomalous transaction

Aetas can also use EO 86 (Nov. 6, 1915 by Gov. Gen. Francis Harrison): an area of 5,947,908
square meters of public domain in the barrio of Villar, municipalityof Botolan, Province of Zambales is
“reserve [d] for school purposes and withdraw [n] from sale or settlement.” Then they can use IPRA
Sect. 7 Right to Claim Parts of Reservations: right to claim parts of AD’s reserved for various purposes
except those intended for public welfare.

However, these documents can possibly salvage only around 600 hectares of their land - the
Puyat Estate: 2,223 hectares. But the main problem at present is Puyat Estate having already
transferred ownership to TMBC.

Combining Ancestral Domain and Agrarian Reform

Ancestral Domain Claim and Agrarian Reform provide foundation for the recognition of the
right to the ownership and stewardship of lands for two of the deprived sectors of the society – the
farmers and the indigenous peoples.

The Ancestral Domain Claim looks at indigenous people’s or indigenous cultural communities’
welfare, while Agrarian Reform focuses on farmers’ tenurial rights. Their great difference lies in the
acquisition of land: indigenous peoples get their ancestral lands for free, while farmer beneficiaries of
Agrarian Reform must amortize the land before they can fully claim ownership.

Even though they are primarily an indigenous people, Aetas can still take up these lines of
struggle. First, both indigenous people’s rights and agrarian reform are still in the present
government’s priority agenda. Second, there are available friendly forces, such as civil society groups
and NGO’s, to back up their activities. But Ancestral Domain Claim is the more likely candidate here
since the Aetas will naturally appeal to their cultural attachment to the land as justification for their
claim. On the other hand, some are inclined to prefer agrarian reform since its process is less tedious
and offers more immediate chances of transfer than ancestral domain.
In conclusion

The Aetas primarily need three things: [1] they need lands, and not ownership papers; [2] they
see the need to feed their families a greater responsibility than the anticipation of the danger of lahar;
and [3] they need the help of both government and non-government development agents to improve
their lives.

Though land titles are just papers, Aetas do appreciate the CADT because it entails legitimate
ownership of the land which they have claimed and toiled in since time immemorial and which
rightfully belongs to them, and this ownership means protection from those who want to take away
their lands.

It is important that we all remember how Aetas look at their lands, that its real value is its
capacity to produce plants and crops, and consequently to provide food to the tillers and their
families. It is where their culture and identity are rooted on, and in which they depend on for
sustenance, livelihood, and spiritual beliefs.