The Ligawasan Marsh Stakeholders Mapping Project: Foregrounding the Marginalized

AUTHOR/S: Augusto B. Gatmaytan, Leah H. Vidal

DATE COMPLETED: April 27, 2015

KEYWORDS: Ligawasan Marsh, Maguindanao, Protected Area, Resource Management, Ancestral Domain, MILF


             The vast Ligawasan Marsh is the source of livelihood for many Maguindanao farmers and fishers, and perhaps more importantly, is a key part of Maguindanao ancestral territory. This study presents the perspectives of small farmers and fishers from twenty-two remote Maguindanao villages across the marsh on the question of establishing a DENR-sponsored Protected Area over the marsh. These findings are intended to complement the results of public consultations on the proposed Protected Area conducted by the DENR.

            The study found that the vast majority of the respondents either approved of the proposed Protected Area, or were open to the idea. This approval was almost always conditional, however. The most frequently-cited condition for accepting the plan was that it must not adversely constrain local fishing, which as a livelihood is already under stress. The second most frequently-cited condition was that implementation of the protected area must be ‘pantay-pantay’; i.e., fair or just. This suggests that there is some anxiety on the part of ordinary fishers and farmers that the project might unduly favour powerful local families, or else be ‘captured’ by these elites. A few respondents cited a third condition; i.e., that the plan must not prevent the exploitation of oil, natural gas and other resources that the Bangsa Moro can utilize for their development. These three conditions were cited singly or in various combinations by different respondents. the study also found that very many residents wanted the MILF to be involved in the management of the Protected Area. This might reflect the experience of political and economic marginalization of small farmers and fishers at the hands of local elites, such that the former are looking to the MILF- which enjoys widespread recognition across the marsh as a protector of Moro rights- to ensure that the management of the Protected Area will be ‘pantay-pantay’.

           Secondary findings of the research project include the following: (1) A widespread awareness of the link between local livelihoods and the ecological condition of the marsh; (2) the (contested) relevance of pre-Islamic indigenous perceptions of the marsh; and (3) a surprisingly large number of respondents who favoured the idea of having the area titled as the Maguindanao’s communal ancestral domain, or as individual landholdings of local residents. 

           The study closes with policy recommendations for the establishment and management of the proposed Ligawasan Marsh Protected Area. 

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