By Raymund Antonio
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will work on the formulation of updated guidelines on road right-of-way claims that involve ancestral lands of indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said.
The National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) will assist the DPWH after the two agencies agreed in crafting the new guidelines for the road right-of-way claims.
Villar and NCIP Chairperson and lawyer Leonor Oralde-Quintayo formally signed recently the memorandum of agreement for their partnership aimed at expediting implementation of infrastructure projects.
“As much as we want to facilitate swift implementation of vital infrastructure projects across the country, it is in our utmost priority to protect the rights and welfare of IPs or ICCs,” said Villar.
The DPWH chief said they hoped to streamline the guidelines on RROW acquisition based on “advice and expertise” of NCIP and implement projects that will provide “positive impact” on IPs’ rights.
Indigenous peoples have rights to their ancestral domains as recognized and protected under Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act.
Under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, IPs have the right to own, develop, control, and use lands and natural resources. They also have the right to stay in these territories and can’t be relocated without their consent.
Based on the MOA, DPWH and NCIP will form a technical working group that is tasked to formulate the guidelines and streamlined documentary requirements in the processing of claims for compensation of IP and ICCs properties affected by DPWH projects.
This will inform the NCIP of the processes in implementation of public works projects such as national roads, bridges and other infrastructure as well as in documentary requirements for acquiring RROW.
To ensure documentary requirements submitted by IPs and ICCs are legitimate and not fake, DPWH shall consult with the NCIP, especially claims without NCIP accreditation and certification.
NCIP, on the other hand, will apprise the TWG in terms of the “processes of accrediting IPs/ICCs, filing ancestral domain claims and ancestral domain titles as well as provide pertinent information relating to the proposed project area.”
The commission shall likewise prioritize the issuance of certification precondition of national government projects and assist in determining conflicting claims over project-affected ancestral lands.
Such agreement will be in effect two years and subject to renewal if deemed necessary by both DPWH and NCIP.