24 January 2018

SBMA, IP group ink accord for Ayta conservation area

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has formally signed an agreement with a non-government organization for the implementation of a conservation program to benefit the Magbukun Ayta tribesmen living within the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma signed the accord with Betty Fielder, president of the Subic Indigenous Peoples Assistance Group (SIPAG), on Wednesday at the SBMA office.



SIPAG had launched its Indigenous Communities Conservation Area (ICCA) project last December under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to help protect and preserve the indigenous Ayta environment and culture here.

The project will be implemented with the support of the local government unit of Morong, Bataan, and the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (PAFID).

The project places the Magbukun Ayta tribe at the forefront of conservation efforts since they live in the conservation site, which forms a part of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone

Eisma said the SBMA will give its all-out support to the project because it dovetails with the agency’s conservation and environment protection program.

“We have pledged our all-out support to this project because it strengthens our fundamental advocacy to protect the natural environment of the Subic Freeport,” Eisma explained.

“Of course, part of the effort goes to the conservation of the indigenous Ayta culture and we also support that,” she added.

Under the agreement, the SBMA allowed SIPAG to use a building at the Naval Magazine area in the Freeport for the establishment of the Ayta Cultural Skills Development and Livelihood Training Center.

Under the ICCA program, residents living within or nearby the conservation area are tasked to serve as protectors of the environment, while the local government unit takes the lead in implementing conservation and protection activities.

According to the UNDP, ICCAs are spaces de facto governed by indigenous peoples or local communities with evidently positive outcomes for the conservation of biological and cultural diversity.

The UNDP also said that ICCAs can be classified as sacred areas or ritual grounds for the indigenous communities residing near it and may include forests, mountains, shorelines, wetlands, fishing areas, and other bodies of water.

Project officials said that with the ICCA program, the continuation, revival or modification of traditional practices or even new initiatives may succeed in protecting and restoring natural resources and cultural values in the face of new threats or opportunities.

Eisma said the SBMA has been successful in implementing a similar program with the Ambala Ayta tribe at the Pastolan village in the town of Hermosa, which also forms part of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

The SBMA has recently been recognized for its Ambala development program by the London-based International Finance Magazine (IFM) for having the best social responsibility initiative, Eisma also said.

Before this, the SBMA also initiated the so-called social-fencing concept at the Freeport to make residents of upland areas in the zone be part of the overall strategy to preserve Subic’s natural environment. (HEE/MPD-SBMA)

PHOTO

Members of the Magbukun Ayta tribe welcome the signing of an agreement by SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma (left) and SIPAG President Betty Fielder to implement a conservation program at the tribe’s territory within the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. (SBMA)

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