Bukidnon Rep. Manuel Zubiri has sought the passage of a bill creating a new department under the Office of the President that caters to indigenous peoples and their cultural communities.
The pending House Bill 131 of Zubiri seeks to create the Department of Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples which will give importance and urgency to the needs and welfare of native Filipino peoples.
The independent department under the President replaces the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) which was created under Republic Act No. 8371 or The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.
The Bukidnon 1st District congressman took note of RA 8371 saying that despite its laudable purposes and achievements, it still falls short in effecting the full implementation and attainment of the government’s policies on indigenous peoples.
The House measure mandates the new department to take over from the NCIP and be headed by a Cabinet Secretary. The NCIP offices will likewise be reorganized into the branches of the said department.
According to Zubiri, the new government agency will cover both local and national affairs involving indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples that include the implementation of economic, educational, cultural and infrastructure programs for Indigenous Filipino communities.
Zubiri adds that it will be the primary government body responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies, plans and programs to promote and protect the rights and well-being of native peoples and the recognition of their ancestral domains as well as their rights.
The Department of Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples will be headed by a Secretary belonging to indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples, and seven undersecretaries appointed by the President from a list of recommendees submitted by authentic native groups.
The said department may create a Council of Advisers composed of cultural, religious, traditional, and tribal leaders. The Council shall advise the department on matters pursuant to its mandate. (Melvin Sarangay)