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Co-Opting Conservation: Migrant Resource Control and Access to National Park Management in the Philippine Uplands

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Dressler, Wolfram H.
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1277
Sector: Forestry
Social Organization
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): IASC
forest management--case studies
parks--case studies
forest law
indigenous institutions
land tenure and use
social networks
Abstract: "This paper examines a case in the Philippines where the transition from coercive conservation (Yellowstone Model) to more devolved management (community-based conservation) has been implemented at one national park, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (see Dressler and McDermott). Here, both migrants and an indigenous people (named Tagbanua coexist in villages adjacent to the park, where the latter faces the brunt of inequitable social relations of production and exchange, while having access to forest resources curbed by park managers. For decades each factor has built on the other to increase indigenous peoples livelihood vulnerability. Changes from coercive conservation (restrictive resource access) to current 'community-based' conservation (local involvement and livelihood support), has only exacerbated pre-existing patterns of social and economic differentiation. While new laws grant Tagbanua certain land rights and greater political leverage, migrant control over trade and resources by-passes the efficacy of new legal measures, such as ancestral domain claims, and does little to offset the risks imposed by park management. By using historical accounts, I show how migrant settlers land uses, political networks, and wealth grew in parallel to and shaped park management to support their own agricultural base. Colonial era classifications of land uses and identity have dichotomized migrants and indigenous peoples and led to inequities in wealth and political power, a pattern further exacerbated by national park management (Dressler and McDermott, 2004). "The papers second section provides the background for the case study by describing early Philippine land laws, forestry policy and transitions in national park management. Section three introduces the case study area, while section four introduces Tagbanua and migrant settlement periods. These sections trace patterns of socio-economic differentiation by comparing and contrasting changes in social relations and land uses between each group before and after migration. Against this backdrop, section five shows that despite the transition from punitive to community-based management at Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, managers still favor migrant lowlanders paddy rice over uplanders swidden agriculture. As park management became institutionalized, so did the suppression of indigenous livelihood strategies around the park. Conversely, since migrant land uses were favored, they were the first to be drawn into the national parks management structure. Section six examines why social inequities persisted despite changes in land classification, particularly ancestral domain claim delineation, management authority and expansion of the park as a World Heritage Site. Section seven finds that the shift to community-based conservation at the park has neither redressed socio-economic differentiation between households, nor achieved the dual objectives of poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation."

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