Philippine Daily Inquirer
BAGUIO CITY—The Cordillera’s terrain makes interaction a difficult task for government workers and law enforcers, and occasionally, even for upland villages involved in conflicts.
But technology has aided in bridging divides.
On Thursday, Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. mediated a dispute among clans of Abra using 3-D (three-dimensional) maps to resolve a boundary feud.
Baguilat was asked to help negotiate a way out of a boundary dispute between the Maeng tribe of Tubo town and the Balatoc, Belwang and Masadiit tribes of Boliney town. The dispute continues to concern villagers even after the tribes agreed to keep the peace in 1977, and again in 1993, through a “bodong” or peace compact among indigenous northern Cordillera villages, he said.
“Both sides agreed to adopt 3-D mapping, as well as government cadastral surveys, as basis for settling their boundary dispute, thus upholding the bodong,” Baguilat said in a statement.
On Sept. 18, Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, Cordillera police director, briefed precinct commanders here about plans to draw up satellite-aided maps shaped by Geographic Information System as part of his initiative to connect all police offices in the upland region to the Internet.
Crossing mountains has not been easy for the region’s policemen, so the Cordillera police office has been looking for open source or free software to help analyze crime data, identify hotspots and coordinate manpower and resources, said Oliver Paculan, a statistician tasked by Magalong to build the police’s online infrastructure.
Magalong said the Philippine National Police would provide the Abra police with computers and Internet connectivity so policemen there could study real-time aerial images of the province and update crime statistics regularly.
Abra is a perennial election hotspot in the Cordillera due to intense rivalries among its politicians, several of whom maintain armed groups.
Paculan said travel through the Cordillera is still difficult.
Reports from the Department of Public Works and Highways showed that the Cordillera has the lowest number of paved national roads in the country, owing to the vulnerability of these roads to heavy rainfall and landslides that are common to the region.
Improvements in communication infrastructure, however, have eased transactions in the uplands, Paculan said.
The National Economic and Development Authority said the Cordillera is now served by 306 cellular telephone sites, which gave Baguio City and the provinces of Apayao, Benguet, Kalinga and Mt. Province full mobile telephone and Internet access. Ifugao has 90.91 percent service coverage, while Abra has 96.30 percent service coverage, according to the Cordillera Regional Development Plan for 2011-2016.
Under the plan, “state-of-the-art information infrastructure (including fiber optics, microwave radio, next generation network) in [Baguio City] is also being established to cater to the growing needs of the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry, e-business, e-government propositions and other electronic-based business outfits.”
The police are also collecting other maps from the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, which recently developed geological hazard maps for the Cordillera.
“We will put them together for a better understanding of the terrain,” Paculan said.
Maps are also crucial in settling disputes in the uplands, said Baguilat, chair of the House committee on national cultural communities.
He said he introduced the 3-D imaging technology to representatives of the contending villages in Abra as an alternative to national perimeter maps, which display discrepancies in the areas being claimed by the Maeng and the Balatoc, Belwang and Masadiit tribes.
The Tipon ti Umili para iti Panangsaluad ti Nakaparsuan (Tipon), an indigenous peoples organizationrepresenting the Maeng tribe, had asked for Baguilat’s presence.
The talks will resume in October. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon