The Senate Committee on Cultural Communities and Committee on Climate Change, both chaired by Senator Loren Legarda, has brought its inquiry outside the four halls of the Senate for the past two weeks to gather various concerns of the indigenous peoples (IPs) across the country, including those from remote and far-flung barangays.
“It is not easy for our IPs to attend Senate Committee hearings held in Manila on the proposed measures that seek to address their needs. It is for this reason that we organized consultative meetings nearer to them to hear what they have to say, as in the first two successful IP assemblies in Baguio City (for the IPs in Luzon) and in Tagum City in Davao del Norte (for the IPs in Mindanao),” Legarda stressed.
“We have a long list of bills that intend to benefit our IPs but the Committees should be guided by the IPs themselves on measures that ought to be prioritized and government programs that must be extended and strengthened,” Legarda added.
As envisioned, the successful assemblies in Baguio City and Tagum City brought to the attention of the Committees the main issues and concerns they want the Senate to take up.
In the Luzon Assembly, with the Isneg, Bago, Tingguian, Kankanaey, Iwak, Ibatan, Agta, Itawes, Tuwali, Gaddang, Kankanaey, Bugkalot, Ayangan, Tiblac, Ivatan and the Dumagat in attendance, the need for the effective implementation and harmonization of the IPRA, mining and environmental laws and policies of the government was clearly established.
In the Mindanao Assembly, attended by the Bajao, Subanen, Kalibugan, Yakari, Bukidnon, Umayamnon, Manobo, Matigsalog, Higa-onon, Mandaya, Bagobo, Mansaka, Dibabawon, Ata, Sama, Manguangan, B’laan, Tagacaolo, T’boli, Aromanen, Kulamanen, and the Teduray, a prominent issue that was brought to the fore: the implementation of the provision of the IPRA that requires LGUs to appoint IP representatives in policy-making bodies and legislative councils.
“This is bringing governance to the grassroots and promoting people empowerment in its basic and effective form,” Legarda said. “I am happy with the results.”
The next and the last of a series of IP assemblies will be held at the Provincial Capitol of Iloilo in Iloilo City this weekend (September 23 to 24). This time, Senator Legarda will gather the views of IPs in island provinces of Luzon and Visayas.
The series of regional assemblies for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will culminate with the National Indigenous Cultural Summit, which will be held at the National Museum on October.***