A bitter-sweet win for the respect of the black Filipinos (Aeta); who now, officially, own the 46,000+ acres of prime land in Porac Pampanga, Philippines (and surrounding areas), is the forced closure of the nearly 15-year-old, popular Puning Hot Springs Resort in Porac Town.
“God will guide us…we now have the documents, the time is right, and now, it’s up to us. We want development in our ancestral lands, who knows, we can be the next Tagaytay…we can now focus on empowering our fellow Aeta and develop our lands, without fear of loss.” -Norman King, actor, educator, and son of Roman King, Chairman, of Indigenous People’s Organization, speaking on The 2022 Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT)
About The Black Mountain
Meet Prince, Norman King:
Photo Credits: Puning Hot Spring Resort Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PuningHotSpringAndRestaurant
Puning Hot Springs Resort in Porac, Pampanga, Philippines stands to lose millions in preparations, marketing, and operational income this peak holiday season.
Puning Hot Springs Resort was recently ordered for temporary closure [as of Oct. 13, 2022] due to (a) violation of its MOA with the Aeta stakeholders and (b) non – compliance of it’s business permit in the Municipality of Porac.
Concerned, full of ups and downs, drama, scandal, and heartbreak, with a twist of hit men and death threats (allegedly) in the mix, of non-compliance with the local black Filipinos, the environmental guidelines, and the local city government after years of costly arrangements.
“Of course, it hurts, but, the black Filipino community [IP indigenous people] and the local government there needed to put their feet down and demand respect from both resort owners and tourists alike who for decades have used their land at discounted rates, without respect for them, the environment, the municipalities, nor full compensation for their usage [illegibly]. It’s sad, and hurts the community in the short term, but will establish respect and standards in the long term as the develop the overall area.”
–Kareem Jackson, CEO, KA&CO Int’l Business, Community, and Tech Development, Executive Publishers of The Philippines Magazine International
The Real Life Story, with a True Life Twist Ending.
Maalaala Mo Kaya Recap: Ilaw (Norman’s Life Story)Courtesy of ABS-CBN Entertainment
The stories around this situation vary, depending on who you talk to.
However, ultimately, regardless of who is to blame, the employees, and stakeholders of Puning Resort [many of which are black Filipinos themselves] are the ones affected by this closure/non-compliance. [see local news articles below]
Sadly; just in time for the holidays, somewhere between 45 to 150 employees and tour partners have been furloughed until further notice.
But, it is not clear, how many of these ‘stakeholders’ and ‘indignant’ employees and upper management, (as quoted from local media) are black Filipinos. It seems that the local community receives little of the proceeds or benefits associated with the resort.
But to be clear, in our interview with the leaders of the black Filipino community, or Aetas, and tour stakeholders there in Pampanga; following the joyous celebration of their long-awaited title ship or Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) for their ancestral 46,000+ acres, this situation can be rectified very easily and immediately, by the owners of the Puning Resort.
Additionally, we believe that it was all a long drawn-out, cultural miss understanding, with a lack of communication.
This news comes, as the Philippines National/International Tourism Season just begins to kick off after 2-years of lockdowns during the covid-19 pandemic. How much, for how long, and why the Korean-Filipina owners and municipality have not been able to settle this issue is unknown to the media, but, we can assume it is long and high, otherwise it is very unlikely that this harsh penalty would have gone into effect.
What we do know.
The owners of Puning Hot Spring Resort, have been in a formal dispute with the parties involved, including lawyers, engineers, management, and local –as well as nearby- officials from both the municipality and the IPO (Indigenous People’s Organization) of Porac.
The original agreement is believed to be around 1.1 hectares of usage, however now, it is believed to have mushroomed into a sprawling 7 hectares, or so.
The ‘rent’ or community fee for the ‘resort’ was/is somewhere around P40,000/$750 per month during its official opening in 2008 to which Sitio Target and Barangay Inararo will share 50/50 ; which is less than a 1 bedroom condominium in Metro Manila. More shocking, was the small 1% annual ‘rent’ increase clause; up to 10% annually is standard throughout Metro Manila.
And, to be transparent, we noticed, there are other ‘costs’ per month over and beyond the ‘rent’ which should be perhaps renegotiated and considered, as they are all paid by Puning’s.
Like black/minority DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) in the US and the UK, concerns around ‘inclusion’ and ‘equity’ are also at the forefront of the concerns of the black Filipino local who own the area.
Of the 45 to 150 employees working at the resort –how many are from the IP community –and what are their levels of employment status, are they management, or decision makers?
We spoke with leaders in the black Filipino community who expressed a desire to be respected, to feel safe, to be appreciated and included in the conversations and subsequent deals being done in their area.
8-Core Aeta Development Principles:
The black Filipino community and leadership have big plans for their land. As they move forward with their plans: recruiting investors, building on the Puning development, and creating their own tourism marketing, they have learned a few core principles which will be applied to all who rent from them in the future as well.
That being said, the closure of the Puning Resort, is temporary, according to the IPO of Porac, assuming the owners can take care of the requirements and honor the principles of the community; including, but not limited to,
- Proper Barangay and Municipality permit and fees,
- Domain/Hectare usage,
- Re-Negotiation of Rent/Lease/Revenue Sharing thru the free prior and informed consent – FPIC,
- Formal Acknowledgement and Respect for IPO, IPS, IPMR – all Aeta Leaders,
- DEI demands of the concerned IP community,
- Development and advancement of the local black Filipino workforce,
- Use of local goods: products, produce, crafts, and
- More of a culture – sensitive marketing strategy to bring awareness to the heritage of the local population.
The other side.
In all fairness, from what we understand, the foreign national and local owners/investors of Puning did undertake the multi-million peso development project to create the resort. Including construction, irrigation, water, and electricity to the resort. When you take into account, the construction, development, operations, and city/state/national costs [paid], as well as, closure costs during the covid-19 lockdowns, it may be safe to say that the resort has not yet reached profitability.
Therefore, any additional expenses, such as rent/community fee increases, marketing, and/or closure/re-open expenses, come directly out of profitability.
Nonetheless, the goal is to reach a “win-win-win-win” between the customers, the Puning Resort owners/investors, the IPO/black Filipino community, and the local government.
Though time will tell; highlighted by the recent 2022 Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), it is safe to say that the days of disenfranchising the black Filipino and IP communities are coming to an end in the Philippines. Black Filipinos, or Aetas, the Philippines Government, and their allies are standing up for what is right for them in both the short and long term.
Although the local, national, and international travel community may suffer from this current closure situation, it will pave the wave for more fruitful arrangements in the future and the area is developed.
Local Press and Media:
The Manila Times:
Punto Central Luzon Newspaper:
The Tribune: [may have been pulled down since the article was written]
Porac Tourism Post:
Courtesy of : https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100068922621370
NCIP Pampanga Community Service Center
‘One of the identified ways forward is the conduct of a joint survey hence this activity. This stemmed from the formal complaint of the community alleging that Puning violated the terms of their Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) by accessing, occupying and operating other areas of the ancestral domain that are outside of the original agreement. The results of this joint survey will determine the veracity of the allegations and will compel all parties to proceed with the necessary sanctions and/or actions towards conflict transformation.’
Quote from the post.
Courtesy of : https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100068922621370
NCIP Pampanga Community Service Center
This was the MOA review and Assessment conducted August 2022, after the joint survey of the total land used by the Puning.
3) This is the translated audio recording of the meeting held in Municipal of Porac. The Municipal legal officer stated the process of serving the ceased and deceased order.
@7:12 To make things clear in the process in LGU(local government unit), regarding on the violation … our first step, since Mayor gave an instruction that we need to do an inspection. Mr. Lozano if you remember, we made an inspection visit in July, then we look into your premises. The joint inspection team are composed of the department agencies here in the Municipal (Porac) that check the permits of each establishments. So when we get to Puning for the inspection, we were oriented as well for the geographical layout of the establishment. We then explained to them what they lack in terms of getting Mayors permit for the establishment. Our process in the municipal is we serve two (2) notice of violation. The first notice of violation is we reiterate to them the requirements that they need to comply then we give them enough time or due date to comply. If they were able to comply, then there would be no second (2) notice. But since they have not get Barangay clearance yet as part of the requirement, we issued the second (2) notice of violation. Then after that we gave them due date to comply and all those period lapses that’s why the Ceased and deceased order of the Mayor was ordered and will be issued to Puning. Upon serving the ceased and deceased order then Puning have to stop operation by then.
We assure our Ayta brothers that the ceased and deceased order will be serve this week.
Note: The picture was the photo of the IPO, IPS, IPMR, and leaders who attended the meeting. Mr. Lozano – the Puning representative attended the meeting. NCIP acting director Atty. Roman Antonio and his colleagues attended the meeting as well to facilitate the meeting.
Some additional points. All of those years that the we are having an issue with Puning, previous NCIP officials were not able to help us settling the issue. We saw hope in the current NCIP officials in the leadership of the Chairman Allen A. Capuyan. It’s in his time that our long awaited Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title was awarded to us, together with the proactive service of the NCIP Pampanga Service Center headed by Mr. Kevin Fonseca. Its in this time that we felt the function of the NCIP office compared to the previous years that we seem to feel lost and alone.We give our appreciation as well to the current Municipal Mayor Jaime V. Capil and his fellow Bayung Porac officers who give their full support to the Ayta communities in Porac not just for our well-being but also for the development of Ayta communities as well.