By Hannah Torregoza
At least two senators are pushing for the creation of resource centers that are aimed at improving the delivery of essential services to indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities.
Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in filing Senate Bill Nos. 706 and 443, respectively, said the measure aims to address the plight of about 14 to 17 million estimated ICCs and IPs who remain the most disadvantaged and poorest in the country.
According to Angara, despite the enactment in 1997 of Republic Act 8371 or the “Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA)”, IPs and ICCs remain the most poorest in the country and despite the various international aids given to them.
“It is imperative to establish resource centers in all ICCs/IPs which are ethnographically located as determined by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP),” Angara said.
“These centers shall enhance the delivery of basic, social, technical and legal services to the ICCs and IPs,” the senator stressed.
Angara noted that of the millions of IPs in the country, 61 percent can be found in Mindanao, while 33 percent are in Northern Luzon.
“They are in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas that still lack basic services,” he added.
For his part, Revilla noted the lack of data on the distribution of IPs in the country, citing reports from the Indigenous People’s International Policy Research and Education.
“If we are to effectively address the plight of our indigenous peoples, it is imperative that we are backed with accurate information based on scientific and reliable data,” Revilla said.
“This proposed measure seeks to establish resource centers for indigenous peoples so that we can gather precise information from the ground,” he added.
Angara’s version of the bill proposes the creation of centers in strategic places as determined by the NCIP.
On the other hand, Revilla specifically proposed that the centers be established in state universities and colleges (SUCs) in strategic locations in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Both bills proposed that the center be composed of three major service areas, namely the statistical service area, human development index service area, and domains management service area.
The statistical service area would be in charge of documentation and recognition of ICCs / IPs, their indigenous knowledge, systems and practices, political structures and customary laws through census, appraisal and baseline reports and libraries, while the human development index service area will be mandated to address the problems of ICCs /IPs and provide basic and necessary services through link-up with concerned government agencies such as training programs, scholarship grants, employment, livelihood and health services.
The domain management service area, meanwhile, will be tasked to promote participatory programs, projects and activities for ICCs / IPs to effectively deliver their responsibility to maintain ecological balance, restore denuded areas, observe laws.
The domain management panel will also be in charge of implementing the Ancestral Domains Sustainable Development and Protections Plans and such other existing programs.
Both bills are now pending before the Senate committee on Cultural Communities, chaired by Sen. Imelda “Imee” Marcos.