By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
In order to help the indigenous peoples (IPs) of the country to survive the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is urging local government units (LGU) to buy their food crops.
Since the indigenous communities are generally poorer and more vulnerable than the rest of the population, the CHR said in its Human Rights Advisory on Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic (CHR V A2020-006) that the LGUs should provide them with food supplies or cash allowances throughout the duration of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Not only that, but LGUs should also help keep their livelihoods afloat through the purchase of their crops for the food packs being distributed to affected daily wage earners and other vulnerable groups.
Aside from giving them food security, the CHR urged LGUs to take care of their identification documents. Lack of these should not be a hindrance for IPs to get access to socio-economic assistance and health services.
In fact, the Commission said that the identity of a member of IPs who lack identification documents can be established through the assistance of the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives (IPMRs).
Access to testing for COVID-19 is still a struggle in the country, but the CHR said that IPs should be given their fair share of health services from the Department of Health (DOH) and LGUs.
Even IPs from Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) should not be deprived of relevant information pertaining to COVID-19. The CHR recommended that LGUs set up COVID-19-ready health facilities like health centers, mobile clinics, telehealth services, and quarantine areas in GIDA areas.
For those who lack test kits, the CHR urged them to avail of the cheaper test kits developed by experts from the Philippine Genome Center and the National Institute of Health of the University of the Philippines-Manila.