From 2008, the presence of military and paramilitary forces in Camias village, Porac, Pampanga has undermined and threatens the way of life of the Aeta tribe.
From 2008, the presence of military and paramilitary forces in Camias village, Porac, Pampanga has undermined and threatens the way of life of the Aeta tribe. These forces are currently deployed within Aeta’s Ancestral Domain covering 18,067 hectares. About 1,800 families, some 3,000 individuals are affected.
The area covered by Aeta’s Ancestral Domain land-claim is protected by law. This law purposely preserves and protects the way of life and dwellings of the indigenous tribes. They get their subsistence and make their livelihood here. It serves to preserve their indigenous tradition, and culture– their very way of life.
Military and paramilitary forces, under the direct control and supervision of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (PA), have carried out incursions into the community. One example is when they occupied a health center and set it up as their military outpost. It is the center where Aetas sought medical assistance.
As a result of their presence and incursions, the Aetas were routinely being confronted and questioned. Even their traditional and indigenous rituals were under close monitoring by the military and Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu), a paramilitary unit.
The military have prohibited the Aetas from practicing their indigenous way of life, like hunting wild birds and animals. They forced them to abandon such means of gathering food as their means of livelihood. The reason being, that when Aetas go hunting, they blow a whistle so the birds come down from the trees for them to catch. This method was suspect as the military felt they were giving warning signals to rebel groups of their presence.
On several occasions, the military also prohibited them from going to the town to buy food, medicines and things they need in the community. And, if they are able to buy food stuffs, the military confiscates rice, livestock and kitchen utensils once they are caught. They were prevented from gathering in groups.
Often government forces fired their guns while under the influence of alcohol.
To justify their actions, the military claimed that the Aetas support the New People’s Army (NPA) by supplying them with food.
Children are often called upon to run errands for the soldiers or get water from a faucet or well. This interrupts their schooling and affects their overall education. The mere presence of the military has already caused fear and trauma for the children.
The Aetas live in scattered and isolated mountainous parts of Luzon, in the northern Philippines. Physically they are dark skinned, not tall with small frames, curly to kinky afro-like textured hair with a higher frequency of naturally lighter hair color.
Deployment of government troops to their area, allege the Aetas, has something to do with the infrastructure and development projects funded by private corporations with backing from both national and local governments. The military are mobilized to protect the vested interests of investors as well as government officials who benefit from these projects.
According to them, the Aboitiz Power Corporation is currently in the process of exploring geo-thermal power sources in some 20,000 hectares of land in Pampanga, where the Aetas’ Ancestral Domain is, and in nearby Zambales. The company is presently conducting exploration in Porac and Floridablanca in Pampanga; and San Marcelino and Botolan in Zambales.
Investment, amounting to USD300 million, is planned for the 100-MW plant within the land area owned by indigenous tribes in these two provinces.
The Aetas have since been fighting to defend their ancestral domain. Until now, the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), a formal recognition of their ownership of their land, has not been given to them. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)-Ancestral Domains Office (ADO) continuously fails to give CADT and the Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT) to them.
Another private corporation, the Clark Development Corporation (CDC), is also involved in a dispute with the IP communities. They are accusing the company of land-grabbing in establishing a golf course and water park inside the Freeport. Five thousand (5,000) hectares of supposedly ancestral land are being occupied by CDC.
And the third issue is the copper, gold and silver extraction project by the Shuley Mine Inc. (SMI) within the tribe’s ancestral domain in Barangay Camias. The project covers 1,160 hectares of Aetas’ ancestral land.
According to the tribal leaders, low-landers would be adversely affected when waste from the mines drain down the Gumain River toward the towns of Lubao and Sasmuan and Manila Bay. These sites, they said, are used by Aetas for recreation, hunting, source of materials for weddings (tangan) and medicinal herbs.
Another entity, the developer LLL Holdings Inc. is said to have grabbed 18,000 hectares of the land tilled by farmers and Aetas.