Legarda Seeks Stronger Gov’t Support for Indigenous Peoples

In observance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (IP) and the Philippine National IP Day on August 9, Senator Loren Legarda said that members of indigenous communities can take part in the country’s development if given more opportunities and stronger support by the government.

“The Indigenous Peoples Day is not only an excellent opportunity to highlight the rich and vibrant culture of our IPs but also serves as a constant reminder for all of us to ensure that we provide the needed support for our IPs to strengthen their part in nation building,” said Legarda, who sponsored the law (RA 10689) that declared the 9th day of August as National IP Day to coincide with the international celebration.

“This year, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 and the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which our country supports, but we know that the concerns of our IPs have yet to be fully addressed. It is for these reasons that we continue to fight for policies and programs that would give our IPs the respect, recognition and opportunities due them,” she stressed.

The Senator has filed several bills aimed at protecting the rights of IPs and promoting indigenous culture.

Senate Bill No. 379, or the proposed Traditional Property Rights of IPs Act, seeks to protect the traditional cultural heritage of IPs and support traditional artists and artisans in their contributions to their respective ethnic cultures and national heritage by ensuring that their rights are safeguarded.

“There have been many reported incidences wherein indigenous knowledge are being stolen by local and foreign entities. Such acts deprive our IPs of their cultural property, their identity which has been passed on from their ancestors. This bill seeks to create a comprehensive cultural archive and inventory of all cultural properties of the different ethno-linguistic groups in the country,” said Legarda.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) will ensure the registration of the ownership to the proper ethno-linguistic group for protection of their intellectual property. It also mandates the payment of royalties for the use of the cultural property of indigenous groups.

Legarda also filed the proposed Cultural Education Program Act under Senate Bill No. 387, which will mandate the country’s key educational agencies to collaborate and work with the NCCA in formulating and implementing plans and programs that will integrate and mainstream Philippine arts and culture in the national education system, primarily through the institutionalization of Schools of Living Traditions (SLTs).

“We already have existing SLTs, which teach the young population of IP groups the traditional arts, crafts, music and practices of their community. But we need to take a major leap in making sure the country’s unique and diverse cultural heritage will flourish by mainstreaming indigenous knowledge systems, skills and practices through the institutionalization of SLTs model in the formal education system,” she explained.

Moreover, Legarda also filed the IP Resource Centers Bill under Senate Bill No. 414.

The IP Resource Center, to be partnered with State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), will serve as venue to promote participatory programs and projects for IPs, to effectively deliver their responsibilities under the IPRA, and to ensure implementation of their respective Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plans.

“Our IPs are the epitome of the tradition, the skill and the creativity of the great Filipino mind. As our nation moves forward and pursues a path of progress, we should always include in public discourse the unique situation and needs of our IPs. We must ensure that they are afforded social services and are empowered to be vital and productive members of our nation,” Legarda concluded.***