DepEd eyes ancestral domain as school sites
MANILA, Philippines – Rappler met Culion native Dionisio Aguilar last June 3 during the opening of public schools nationwide. His 20-year-old son Joseph almost did not continue high school, but Dionisio said he persuaded him to push through.
Joseph was also lucky enough to be in Culion, where a high school annex was put up in time for this year's school opening.
Building schools in ancestral domains like Barangay de Carabao in Culion, Palawan, where the indigenous Tagbanuas reside, is not an easy feat. The Department of Education (DepEd) cannot just put up schools in areas owned by IPs.
These lands are protected by The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (RA 8371), which compels the state to protect the right of IPs to their ancestral domain.
However, the DepEd is determined to heed its mandate of providing quality education even to the “small, far-flung, and maybe culturally-distant communities.”
On Thursday, June 27, the department entered into an agreement with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to facilitate discussions with IP communities on the use of some 2,000 school sites located within their ancestral domain.
Education Undersecretary Alberto Muyot said they will submit an inventory of 2,051 school sites to the NCIP, which in turn will provide the department a map of ancestral domains covered by Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT).
A CADT, according to PhilippineLaw.info, is a title formally recognizing the rights of possession and ownership of IPs over their ancestral domains.
A validation process will proceed right after, and the elders of the IPs will be consulted before the drafting of a Deed of Usufruct allowing the DepEd to use these school sites.
“DepEd needs to ask the community as to what their ideal learning environment is, and what they think can best help the youth that is still appropriate to their culture,” Education Secretary Br Armin Luistro said in Filipino. “The department is serious: we should not impose what we think is the type of learning environment that we're comfortable with,” he added.
But Muyot clarified that the request for building schools would still have to come from the communities themselves.
“Hindi nga po magtatayo ang DepEd ng eskwelahan kung wala pong kahilingan at pangangailangan dun sa community. (The DepEd will not build schools if there is no request or need in the community.)”
Muyot said one or two classrooms can already be found in these IPs communities, but because of the agreement, both DepEd and NCIP can identify which areas need more. “We are borrowing these [lands] from our IPs communities to be used only for education. As for the other DepEd plans such as how to use the land, and what kind of building to put up, I ask the department to seek permission,” Luistro said.
He added that DepEd must respect the school sites the IPs will lend them.
“Before, our concept of land-ownership is that when we own it, we can do anything we want with it. Let's remember that this is not the IPs communities' concept of land-ownership .We are borrowing, we are asking for permission, so we must respect the land that we're going to use.”
NCIP Chairperson Zenaida Pawid promised Secretary Luistro they will try their best to help DepEd for the next two years, the duration of the project as indicated in the Memorandum of Agreement signed by both parties.
Earlier this month, DepEd also alloted P100 million for education in IP communities. – Rappler.com