Saving the Forest while Eating a Pig

I spent most of the day at a “trial” over someone accused of cutting down trees to make lumber for sale. This is a big no-no among the Ikalahan who base their identity on forest care (their name literally translates as “from the broadleaf forest”).

In their fashion, the matter would be decided by the community in. Tongtongan. Many elders were present, including many from nearby communities. Also present were representatives from the municipality, the local office of department of environment and natural resources (DENR), foresters from the Kalahan Educational Foundation (KEF,who directly manage the forest) as well as a wider public of interest (neighbors) interested in keeping the forest safe. Also present was an officer from the local office of the National Commission on Indigenous People who acted as recorder of the meeting. And, of course the accused, a local peasant farmer from the community. 

Ikalahan Tongtongan
Speaking at an Ikalahan Tongtongan

While he guilt was never in question – he freely admitted to his wrongful action – most of the morning’s (10am to 12pm) discussion was listening to various perspectives on how authority over the case should proceed. The municipality was happy enough to let the community decide. But the real problem involved three other groups who felt they should be involved in making a decision. The foresters from the DENR have rules thry need to enforce. The foresters from the KEF have their own set of rules and penalties. And the elders themselves had various opinions.

Roasted Pork Meal
Roasted pork, pork liver, and pork blood sausage

The morning proceedings broke for lunch. In true Cordillera peoples’ fashion, a pig was slaughtered and roasted. Besides pork, included in the meal was roasted liver and blood sausage from the same pig (and heaps of rice). As I was earing with some of the locals, they asked me if we had similar food in Colorado. I could tell they were fishing for a good story about gross food so I treated them to the idea of Rocky Mountain Oysters. Puzzled by the word “oyster” I explained this in Tagalog as bayag ng baka (bull’s balls). My companionslaughed at. After explaining how steers are produced, they agreed thst this is a good practice. They eat as much of a pig as possible after all.

After lunch, the elders deliberated publicly. This observation is an important cultural note, although the elders have authority, their power is in plain sight. People can see and hear their conversation even as they sit quietly. This feature is important as seeing how the elders function is important training for future elders and hands down the democratic tradition to the next generation. 

Among the elders, the discussion boiled down on whether or not to devolve the decision down to a policy, or to make a decision at this moment. They found existing rules to be insufficient for the case and proposed to the accused that he pay a fine and plant new seedlings to replace the trees he cut down. The accused eventually agreed to this, which then ended the meeting as it was obvious that everone felt good at the resolution. 

I don’t know if the term restorative justice is known among them, but the Ikalahan certainly practice it. And everone gets to eat in the process.

This New Zealand river now has the same legal rights as a human being – The Washington Post

This is good! The indigenous presence in this institutional text chips away at the text of the Regalian Doctrine. 

Next is how to give legal personality to forests and coral reefs.

More bad news: Australia’s mangrove forests wiped out died of thirst

Chamber of Mines files graft complaint vs Gina Lopez

What this means in a nutshell — extractive industries have had it easy in the past with their own versions of graft and corruption. I think they know how bad mining is to the environment, especially in watershed and wildlife sanctuaries. The mining industry made plans accordingly and are now shocked to discover that the DENR has broad powers to shut them down.

Did Secretary Gina Lopez jump the gun in ordering the closure of mines found in violation of environmental standards? Perhaps, but other groups ate waiting in the sidelines to countersue mining companies of even worse graft charges than those against Sec. Lopez. The indigenous peoples organizations here in the Cordilleras ate cheering her on. And they’ve learned a thing or two about contesting land grabs in the court over the years. I suspect that mining companies stuck in a neoliberal mindset have difficulty seeing just how strong the resistance will be if they insist.

Chamber of Mines files graft complaint vs Gina Lopez

Due process respected in mine closures, say DENR execs

Full text:


Top Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials on Sunday belied claims made by the Chamber of Mines against DENR Secretary Gina Lopez during last week’s confirmation hearings that she did not follow due process in the cancellation of 23 mining permits last February.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) is one of the most vocal oppositors to Lopez’s appointment. Its representative read a statement during last Thursday’s Commission on Appointment (CA) hearing at the Senate, and stated that the DENR Secretary was unfit to lead the environment agency.

DENR Undersecretary Arturo Valdez, who led the first successful Phililppine expedition to Mount Everest in 2006, said that the mining sector is reeling and overreacting to the recent mass cancellations, which has happened to the industry for the first time.

“The audit results were unfavorable to several mining companies, which may have shocked them because they’re not used to an Environment Secretary who stops at nothing and actually is the first one to publicly declare that she will strictly enforce our environmental laws,” Valdez noted.

DENR Undersecretary Maria Paz Luna, engaged in environmental law and policy practice for two decades before joining the department, meanwhile, clarified that DENR followed all due process requirements in the mine cancellations.

“The audits for mines started in July 2016 and it took all of eight months. Sixteen teams went to the field. DENR Regional Directors were in fact assigned to areas not within their jurisdiction. We made sure to have a cross-regional check and balance. There were representatives from civil society and other agencies of government were present in the mine examinations,” Luna stressed.

“The audit was conducted by going to the operations of the mines themselves. The mining companies knew of these audits; they allowed these audits. After tests were conducted by the teams, the DENR sent the companies the audit reports,” explained Luna.

Luna said that the affected mining firms were given an opportunity to respond to the findings of the DENR.

“From those responses, the Secretary made her own assessment and came out with a decision which is her discretion to do,” said the lawyer.

Lopez informed CA members that as DENR Secretary, she was bound to comply with due process in the cancellation of mine operations and that she performed her duties with social justice, the common good, the general welfare, and passion for protecting, preserving and promoting the environment in mind.

The COMP accused Lopez of bias, which the group said prevented the Secretary from appreciating the mechanics of the Mining Act. 

Undersecretary Luna countered by stressing that “there’s no one else who can enforce our environmental laws without fear or favor as much as Sec. Gina Lopez can.”

“Someone with integrity and with political backing from the President can finally do what this country has been waiting for in a long time, and that’s the enforcement of our environmental laws.”

Luna further branded as patently untrue the various oppositors’ claims that there was no transparency in the DENR audit results.

“The technical review reports have been posted online. People can also go to the office and request for access to the information that we have under our Freedom of Information policy at the DENR. The technical review committee results and the closure orders are all for the public to see. There’s nothing to hide.” ### 

The Native American Portraitist | Hint Fashion Magazine

Wonderful photographs of First Nations peoples.–march-05-2017-1557-fashion&

Forest Ethography

Route to Santa FeI am curremt shuttling back and forth between Sta Fe, Nueva Vizcaya and Metro-Manila collecting data.

Meanwhile, I am parking ethnographic notes and links at Forest Ethnography on Tumbr.

My research topic is on the organizing of sustainable forestry from an organizational discourse perspective intersecting with postcolonial theory, especially in terms of Homi Bhabha’s concept of hybridity.

The site of study is the Kalahan Reserve within the Ikalahan/Kalanguya ancestral domain. I’m hoping to understand how hybridity works to construct new institutions through discourse.

Chayote Swidden farming in Imugan