Davao, Philippines — There’s an old saying about the Filipinos: They’re the only people in the world who are willing to take risks, even if it’s in their own backyards.
And the country is about to take that risk with the first of its new ethnic minority groups, the Davaos.
The first Davaon, a new group of Davaan residents that has arrived in Davao City in the past year, has been hailed as a model for the country.
The Davaoes, who call themselves “people of the forest,” have been in the country for about a century.
But they are now the country’s newest ethnic minority group.
The Davao Valley is home to the Duaan-Davao indigenous people, a nomadic tribe that makes up more than 60 percent of the population.
Like many indigenous groups in the Philippines, the tribe has lived on this land for generations.
But this time, the indigenous Duaans have been granted the right to live on land not owned by the government.
They also have the right, according to the government, to work as farmers, as well as protect and protect their environment.
But for the Davao-Duaan group, their first-ever land purchase, which was officially announced in May, has stirred a lot of controversy.
“This land is theirs and theirs alone, not ours, not yours,” said Kian Kukkam, a Duaano activist who works for the Dawaan Cultural Center, an NGO that helps the Dvaan community.
The land is not only Davaano territory but also an international park, the largest protected area of any indigenous group in the Southeast Asian nation.
The purchase of the land is illegal, Kukham told Al Jazeera, but “it’s an example of how we can work together to defend our rights.”
The land has been under threat before, according the Davapans.
A group of government officials who are now in charge of the park are responsible for a string of environmental disasters.
In 2010, the government’s own environmental survey team found that about 80 percent of Dvaans live in urban areas.
The survey also found that more than 50 percent of those who live in areas that have a high concentration of people from the nearby provinces were also living in areas with higher concentrations of the group.
“That means if there is a drought, that’s not going to go away,” Kukukam said.
In 2014, authorities discovered that Davaans were also responsible for the spread of the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that has devastated the country and killed at least 2,100 people.
As the DVaan community is preparing for this new purchase, the situation has also come under scrutiny.
The government said that about 1,000 acres of the DVAAN area were sold to the private company Davaolite Resources Inc., which was set up to develop the park.
In 2016, Davaoli Resources, which also bought the land, filed a complaint with the National Institute of Statistics and Programme Evaluation (INSEE), an independent agency that monitors the development of government agencies.
It said that, in addition to the 1,200 acres of land that had been acquired, about 200 acres were sold for an undisclosed amount of money to another company, PNDP Holdings Inc. According to INSEE, the sale of the remaining 20,000 hectares to the other buyer was completed by late October, before the Davapo Forest and Wildlife Management Committee approved the purchase.
The INSEE did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.
According of the INSEE report, the previous sale was approved in 2013, and the new owner is said to have purchased land for a new project.
According for the INSE, the new purchaser was identified as the Philippine Association of Land Use Organizations (PAOLU).
The PAOLU did not immediately respond to a request for comments on the sale.
The PAPORA is also a member of the Philippine Environmental Protection Agency (PEPA).
Its website describes the PAOLUs role as “promoting sustainable use of public lands and natural resources and protecting the environment.”
“PAOLUs aims to improve the environmental health of the Philippines by protecting and enhancing the environmental balance in the national and local sectors,” the website reads.
The PAULU’s website has also said that the group is “working with stakeholders and stakeholders groups in support of our work to protect the environment, improve the sustainable use and management of public land and natural resource, enhance the effectiveness of the environmental assessment and other measures to safeguard and enhance the natural environment and the environment in the Philippine National Parks.”
The PALUs website does not mention that the land that was sold was purchased through the PAPorA’s land transfer program.
But the PPAOLu’s website does say that “the PPALU has acquired an additional 2,500