Legarda Pushes for Convergence of Government Agencies to Advance the Rights of the IPs

Alarmed by the concern of an Ata of Negros Oriental on ancestral land claims which overlap with previously-issued Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Senator Loren Legarda stressed the need for government agencies to work closely with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to ensure that their programs reach the indigenous peoples (IPs) and do not perpetuate their long history of marginalization.

In an open forum at the two-day (September 23-24) Visayas Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly held at the Provincial Capitol of Iloilo in Iloilo City, Legarda said: “I urge the DAR, DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and the NCIP to harmonize conflicting policies and programs on land ownership that go against the spirit of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).

“While there must be a review of existing laws that govern the transfer of land to the landless, especially the IPs, we must do what we can do now by rallying the support of different departments of government,” Legarda said.

Aside from the issue of land ownership, Legarda also said that as the government scales up the delivery of social and economic services such as education and healthcare, it must give importance to the IPs.

Citing that the Deped will undertake improved IP education as part of its priority programs, Legarda wants to see in peso figures how much will be allocated to address the lack of basic education and functional literacy of many of our IPs.

As to healthcare services, Legarda said she wants to find out from the DOH if IPs will significantly benefit from the proposed P12 billion subsidy for health insurance of indigent families.

Legarda also noted that a total of P39 billion will be allotted next year for the DSWD’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to reach a total of 3 million families by 2012.

“How many IPs are beneficiaries of the program? We should seriously look into this as the CCT program can be a powerful tool to enhance the social and economic mobility of our IPs,” the Senator said.

“We have to keep an eye on these budget lines and see to it these will translate into improved quality of life for our long-suffering IPs,” Legarda concluded. ***

Office of Senator Loren Legarda
RM.209, Senate of the Philippines,
GSIS Bldg. Pasay City