(Kalangitan tribal chieftain Reynaldo Medriano denies that there were displaced Aetas at the ongoing development of the New Clark City during a press conference at the Capas legislative building on Thursday. At the panel are (L-R) former chieftain Antonio Sumilang, BCDA VP Joshua Bingcang, Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan, former NCIP commissioner Bayani Sumawang and NCC safety officer Jaymar Tiglao. Photo by Ashley Manabat)
CAPAS, Tarlac— Aetas that were reported to be claiming they were displaced by the ongoing development of the 9,450-hectare New Clark City here are dreaming.
This was how Mayor Reynaldo “Reycat” Catacutan described their complaint during a press conference at the Legislative Building here on Thursday attended by Aeta tribal leaders, members of the sangguniang bayan and village officials.
“Kaya po sila nananaginip lang dahil binenta na nila ang lupa nila 30 years ago. Nung pumutuk po ang Pinatubo, sila po ay inilipat na sa resettlement area sa Barangay Cristo Rey sa O’Donnel Resettlement Site na puro sementado na kaya wala nang makikitang kalupaan doon,” Catacutan said.
“As the local chief executive, I will be the first one to resist any project or development that is not pro-Capaseňo,” he said. “As mayor, my first order of business is to protect my people, their rights and interests.”
“This is the same for BCDA (Bases Conversion Development Authority) otherwise they will be violating the Philippine Constitution,” he pointed out.
Aeta tribal leader and former National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) commissioner Bayani Sumawang said there are no Aetas displaced by the development at the NCC.
Kalangitan tribal chieftain Reynaldo Medriano and former chieftain Antonio Sumilang both deny any displaced Aetas. They said they are in constant communication the BCDA.
Aeta Jaymar Tiglao, who works as a safety officer at NCC, said he is happy with his work.
BCDA senior vice president Joshua “Jake” Bingcang said there are about 6,000 workers at NCC and 300 of them are Aetas.
Bingcang explained in detail the ongoing development of NCC as well as benefits and programs for Aetas.
“There is no truth to the report that there are 15,000 farmers in Capas that will be displaced by the NCC because that figure is the total number of farmers in Capas,” Catacutan said.
“They said there were 16 tribes but not one tribe is located inside the NCC. Barangay Paruglog, Bueno and Sta. Juliana where Aetas reside are not part of NCC,” explained Catacutan.
The Aetas are inside Crow Valley Target Range, the mayor said.
“I challenge UP (University of the Philippines) and UG (University of Glasgow) to come to my office and I will lecture them,” dared Catacutan who also challenged anyone to see if there are Aetas displaced in the ongoing development at the NCC.
“I am challenging them to go to Capas to see if there are Aetas displaced because of the on-going development at New Clark City,” said the mayor.
The press conference was an off shoot of a two-part report published in a national daily recently – “P607-B Clark ‘green city’ to displace Aeta communities” and “New Clark City: Development for whom?”
“This is totally erroneous,” said Catacutan referring to the news articles that hundreds of Aetas were dislocated because of the government’s huge infrastructure project here.
“Come to Capas and we will take you to Dalin and Alli sitios to see for yourself if there are indeed hundreds of Aetas who were displaced (or to be displaced)” because of the development being undertaken by the BCDA,” Catacutan said.
He also said the area being contested in the story is not even part of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).
The 9,450 hectares area is part of Clark Special Economic Zone—a government property which remained undeveloped after the Americans left during the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in June 1991 and the subsequent non-renewal of the US Military Bases Agreement in 1992.
“There are no Aeta communities at the NCC because the indigenous people are mostly residing in Barangay Kalangitan, Catacutan said.
He was supported by Sumawang who is also from Barangay Kalangitan here.
According to Sumawang, the settlers at Sitio Alli, which is in the boundary of NCC and Kalangitan, are mostly “unats”—referring to the lowlanders who decided to live in the disputed areas.
Sitios Alli and Dalin were proclaimed resettlement areas under Presidential Proclamation 812 more than 20 years ago.
He added that if there are Aetas in sitio Alli and Dalin, they are mostly caretakers of “unats” who are mostly former soldiers from Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga and Tarlac.
It was learned that even before it became a government resettlement area, the land in Alli and Dalin was purportedly owned by an “unat” named Esting Coronel.
It was also learned that the land was sold because the Coronel family decided to migrate to Australia.