Sat. May 21st, 2022

The National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) said the Philippines is leading the world in terms of recognizing and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs).

(Photo Courtesy: Global Environment Facility)

This was reported by Lawyer Norberto “Jong” Navarro, Ethnographic Commissioner of the NCIP, during the virtual press conference of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Wednesday in celebration of Indigenous People’s Month this October.

Navarro said this achievement was made possible through the creation of NCIP, which is mandated to implement the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or the IPRA Law and promote IPs’ rights “in their own perspective” and over their “ancestral domain”.

The NCIP made processes and validations of all IPs’ claims easy to implement, Navarro explained, as shown by the 43 policy guidelines issued by the Commission that are responsive to the needs of every IP community.

To date, NCIP has already identified 948 IP communities located and living in roughly 13 million hectares of land, 27 percent of which were already given land titles estimated to be 5.8 million hectares of land. “Wala akong alam na ibang bansa na nakagawa nito,” Navarro said, noting that even the United States had only “reserved” lands for their own IPs.

Navarro said besides the cultural celebration, the country is also commemorating the 24th year of the signing of the IPRA with this year’s theme: “Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan para sa Tunay na Pagkilala, Paggalang at Sariling Pamamahala.”

We should not only celebrate the color and joy of culture this month of IPs or the Indigenous Filipinos, but also their advocacy for their recognition and also the protection of them,” Navarro said in Filipino.

We should take care of it, because it gives color to the Philippines, to Filipino culture. This is an appreciation, not only to the indigenous people but to all Filipinos,” he added in Filipino.

Through the NCIP, the IPs are being assisted and empowered to have their own representation and air their concerns in every government program and project affecting their communities. These are now 5,006 IP Mandatory Representatives (IPMRs) in the local government councils across the country, the official said.

“We’re talking here of barangays, municipal and even city levels,” Navarro said, pointing to the “empowerment” given to IPs by the Filipino people to help advance their interests.

If there is ancestral domain or a significant number of IPs, there should be IP representation in the community. That is a big accomplishment (of the NCIP), imagine the direct influence of the IPs in the policies and programs of every local government unit (LGU) and these are not chosen in the general elections but are chosen by the IPs themselves,” he said partly in Filipino.The NCIP also reported that there are 235 organized IP Cooperatives, 32,094 IPs assisted through its Educational Assistance Program, 51 given with Merit-based scholarships, 143 Memorandum of Understanding signed with other government agencies and civil society organizations (CSOs) aimed at advancing the rights of the IPs, and 975 projects implemented for IPs across the country.

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