QUEZON CITY, Philippines -- Indigenous peoples in the Philippines are helping formulate a policy agenda this time, after 13 years of the country's law that supposedly advanced their plight.
Katribu Partylist, a group of indigenous people's groups which sought seats in the Lower House of Philippine Congress, said that a day before the 13th anniversary of the signing of the nation's first ever law recognizing the rights of the indigenous peoples, Republic Act 8371 or Indigenous People's Rights Act (IPRA), different indigenous peoples organizations and support groups from different parts of the country converged to formulate the Indigenous Peoples' Policy Agenda.
Dubbed as a CONSENSUS BUILDING PROCESS FOR THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S POLICY AGENDA, the gathering aimed to produce a Policy Agenda streamlining the indigenous peoples' policy thrusts that mainly consist of the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples' rights to ancestral land and to self-determination. The Policy Agenda contains recommendations for legislative and executive action.
The group is composed of different indigenous peoples from Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), Kapisanan ng mga Katutubong Samahan ng Pilipinas (KASAPI), Katribu Partylist and a loose formation of support groups under the Consultative Group on Indigenous Peoples (CGIP).
According to Piya Malayao, KAMP spokesperson, “Aquino shows no interest creating a comprehensive policy or program for national minorities. We are creating other avenues where we could express what we wish the executive and legislative will implement.”
Malayao is an Igorot of Bontoc, Mountain Province in the Cordillera region.
Different indigenous groups, including KAMP, submitted an Indigenous Peoples Agenda during the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Week last August. The Agenda sums up the indigenous peoples' demands and challenges to the newly-elected president.
“Since submission of our Agenda, we heard nothing from Aquino's end. He has not acted upon the urgent demands of indigenous peoples,” Malayao said. Malayao says that redress for human rights violations and the scrapping of Oplan Bantay Laya are among the urgent issues of indigenous peoples.
“We hope this united and consolidated effort of indigenous peoples' organizations will be heeded by the Aquino government,” Malayao added.
The group pushes for policy agenda that is beneficial to the indigenous peoples such as the following:
1.Repeal of the Mining Act of 1995, banning of large-scale mining in the country, and review of existing land policies that affects indigenous peoples' rights to ancestral land and the enactment of an Alternative/People's Mining Bill,
2.Enactment of anti-discrimination law, and the enactment of laws that will ensure food security and livelihood for indigenous communities in context of indigenous knowledge systems and practices.
3.Call for a bill or resolution that will ensure the full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discriminations (CERD) recommendations to the Philippine government.
4.Push for resumption of peace talks with the NDFP and the MILF, and the abandonment of counter insurgency programs that target legal personalities and civilians, and indemnification for victims of human rights violations of the past government.
“With the Indigenous Peoples Policy Agenda, we are creating greater legislative protection and challenging the existing policies that impinges on IP rights,” Beverly Longid, President of Katribu Partylist said.
Land laws that liberalizes the ownership and control of lands and resources such as the Mining Act of 1995 has been trampled on indigenous people's rights to land. Also, it runs counter to the interest not only of the indigenous people but as well national sovereignty, Longid added.
The group also commended the House committee on National Cultural Communities headed by the Congressman Teddy Brawner Baguilat, a congressman from Ifugao, for the positive treatment to the group's initiative. #