Fifteen years after the passage into law of Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), Senator Loren Legarda today underscored the importance of the law in the protection of the country’s indigenous communities and the traditional knowledge and practices they live by.
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, said that IPs continue to be deprived of many of their rights, but with better implementation of the provisions of IPRA, many of their concerns can be addressed.
“Our indigenous peoples have shaped our story as a Filipino people—our music, arts and dance, our native knowledge and skills, our deeply held beliefs, our creativity, our sustainable ways of living with our physical environment and most important, our self-worth. Despite these overwhelming contributions, we have admittedly underwhelmed them as opportunities, services and share in decision-making, that are embodied in the Indigenous Peoples Rights law, have yet to be fully accorded,” she stressed.
The Senator said that most leaders of various IP communities in the country have raised the concerns of their groups during the three regional assemblies and the first National Indigenous Cultural Summit that she organized in 2011.
“In the IP Regional Assembly in Luzon, IP leaders called for the effective implementation and harmonization of the IPRA, mining and environmental laws, and policies of the government; while the indigenous communities in Mindanao stressed the need for the implementation of the provision of the IPRA that requires LGUs to appoint IP representatives in policy-making bodies and legislative councils,” she explained.
Moreover, in the IP Assembly for the Visayas region, an IP leader raised the issue on the need to harmonize conflicting policies and programs on land ownership that go against the spirit of the IPRA.
“While it is true that we still have a lot to do in order to fully accord our indigenous brothers and sisters the recognition and protection they need, we have to give the laws we crafted, especially the IPRA, a chance to be fully implemented. Government must faithfully implement the provisions of the law in order to protect our culture bearers and to improve their quality of life,” Legarda concluded.***