A quiet territorial battle for the welfare of the original 200 indigenous people of Calauit Island, Palawan, southwestern Philipp-ines, versus 514 imported African wildlife species has started in the Philippine courts.

"I think we can resolve the conflict within a year," Lito Alisuag, Executive Director of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development said. President Gloria Arroyo looked at the Calauit endangered wildlife sanctuary last week.

Arroyo was also told about the case of the evicted community, which was displaced by the 25-year-old mini-safari established by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos when he was in power.

The residents are members of the militant Return to Calauit Movement (or Balik Calauit Movement or BC).

They were "forcibly driven out of their ancestral land to make room for imported wildlife by the Marcos regime in 1977", said BCM chairman Rebocato Liquib.

Their suffering began when the Marcos government yielded to international requests to save some highly endangered African wildlife species, he said. Arroyo gave an assurance that native settlers of Calauit have the legal power to press for their rights to stay put on the island, he added.

At the same time, Arroyo also asked him to influence the settlers to help protect the sanctuary. "This is part of the community's responsibility since the whole Calauit is our ancestral domain. But the important point is maintaining our residency here," Loquib argued.

The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) runs the wildlife sanctuary project under the president's office.