Panama’s Legislative Assembly approved on 25 October 2018 the creation of a new indigenous territory, Comarca Naso Tjër Di, covering 160,616 hectares in the Caribbean province of Bocas del Toro. The Assembly’s decision to pass Bill 656 came after decades of struggle by the Naso for recognition of their ancestral lands. The President’s signature is still required for ratification.
Comarca Naso Tjër Di includes two protected areas—Amistad International Park and Palo Seco Protected Forest. According to lawyer Héctor Huertas of the Kuna people, natural resources within the protected areas cannot be used in ways that could endanger biodiversity within the protected areas or survival of the Naso people. The Naso must coordinate with the Ministry of Environment to ensure the environmental conservation of the Comarca.
The National Coordinating Body of Indigenous People (COONAPIP), with funding from the Tenure Facility, provided some technical and financial assistance to the Naso in their efforts to secure title to their lands.
“We congratulate all our Naso brothers and we celebrate with great joy this advance that only requires the signature of the President of Panama to become law of the Republic,” said COONAP President Marcelo Guerra. “This achievement is not only one of COONAPIP, but of all indigenous peoples. At last we have justice.”