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Business

Ecozones in ancestral domains pushed

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) has partnered with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to promote the creation of economic zones in ancestral domains and lands to spur development in the countryside.

A memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed by PEZA director general Charito Plaza with NCIP chairperson Allen Capuyan last week to work together in the identification, creation, development, implementation and operation of ecozones in ancestral domains and lands, and empower indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) or IPs to become ecozone developers or operators as owners of the lands.

PEZA and NCIP entered into the MOA pursuant to Administrative Order 18 issued by the Office of the President in June 2019, which seeks to accelerate rural progress through the development of special economic zones in the countryside.

Under the MOA, the PEZA and NCIP will assist ICCs or IPs who are interested in having portions of their ancestral domains to be declared as an economic zone.

Information and education campaigns will be conducted for interested and qualified communities on the different kinds of economic zones, the processes and requirements for declaration of such, as well as the benefits.

In promoting the creation of economic zones in ancestral domains and lands, the parties will ensure cultural sensitivity and cultural integrity are upheld.

A technical working group composed of five members each from PEZA and NCIP will be formed to regularly monitor and report updates on the implementation of the MOA.

Plaza said the PEZA wants to start the implementation of the MOA with those with certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) or a title formally recognizing the rights of possession and ownership of ICCs or IPs over the ancestral domains.

She said those issued with CADT will serve as the ecozone developers or owners who will be receiving the lease payments from the ecozone locators.

She also said the ICCs or IPs should be prioritized in terms of jobs that will open in the ecozones to be developed under the MOA.

“We have to enrich, empower, not just the government, not just LGUs (local government units), not just locators and investors,  but most especially the people who own the land,” she said.

For his part, Capuyan said the NCIP expects the development of special economic zones in ancestral domains to provide not just economic opportunities, but also increase the basic services including education and health in the IP communities.

Despite ICCs or IPs owning vast lands, he said they are among the poorest social groups as illiteracy, unemployment, and poverty have deprived them of rights and opportunities to develop capabilities needed to cope with the fast changing economic environment.

“We hope that this partnership will bring a real positive change to the lives of these ICCs or IPs through the creation of livelihood and enterprise for increased economic productivity along with sustainable mineral, agroforestry processing, sustainable tourism industries, among others,” he said.

PEZA

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