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PIA Press Release

Peace laureate partners with Lumads to protect forests

New Bataan, Compostela Valley (20 November) -- Peace laureate and RainTrust founder David Plattner signed partnership agreements with different tribal groups in Mindanao on Thursday, urging Lumads to shield their forests from timber poaching.

Plattner, along with RainTrust country director Jonathon Bentley Stevens went to Malungon, Sarangani and New Bataan, Compostela Valley on Thursday and signed an agreement with indigenous peoples to preserve and protect biological diversity and productivity in their properties identified in their certificate of ancestral domain titles (CADT).

CADT is part of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. It recognizes the rights of Lumads to their right to ancestral domain and lands, right to self-governance and empowerment.

Plattner, an American citizen, also flew to the Philippines to formally receive the Gusi Peace Prize award in the field of environment and biodiversity on Wednesday at the Philippine International Convention Center where Filipino priest Rev. Rocky Evangelista will also receive the peace prize in the field of Social Services and Humanitarianism.

The Gusi Peace Prize recognizes the most brilliant individuals around the world "working toward the attainment of peace and respect for human life and dignity."

Dario Lasib, a B'laan chieftain in Malungon, was elated that their role in protecting the environment has been recognized, this time through a document that would also bring in economic development in their community.

"We have long been waiting for this," Lasib said in Cebuano.

"This is an achievement on our part since we will not only guard the forests but we will also be welcoming opportunities for economic growth since the organization agrees to provide funds while we protect the environment," Jerry Lindaan, chair of the Southern Tribal Foundation.

Under the agreement, RainTrust would provide conservation and development funds for the Lumads as long as they continue to protect the property and its biological diversity.

"This is a joint venture agreement. We have no control over the subject property covered by CADT," Jonathon Bentley Stevens, RainTrust country director, explained during the signing ceremony held in New Bataan Thursday night.

Lumads will report to the organization if they hear a hint of tree being cut for timber. RainTrust would serve as back up as they would bring the attention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and, if possible, President Aquino if they receive reports from the uplands, Plattner explained.

The organization promotes forested areas in Mindanao to interested parties who would wish to buy square-foot sponsorships of land. The sponsors would be able to monitor their reserve lands blow-by-blow using interactive proprietary software that displays real time images transmitted through precise Global Positioning System coordinates.

RainTrust targest to restore 230,000 renewable energy trees and replant 500,000 acres within deforested areas in Mindanao.

To date, the Philippines has only 18 percent remaining forest cover, with 60 percent of the country's land area suffering from soil erosion, according to DENR. (Raintrust/PIA-XI) [top]

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