Proposed P1,000 budget for NCIP scored, hailed
Slashing the budget of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) will cripple the titling of ancestral lands to which indigenous peoples (“lumad”) are entitled, according to Lakas at Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Ayta ng Sambales (Lakas).
“This so little budget will further slow down the research, documentation and issuance of titles for ancestral lands. It will paralyze the NCIP,” Carlito Domulot, Lakas adviser, told the Inquirer by telephone from Zambales province on Wednesday.
But a group advocating lumad rights and education hailed the decision of the House of Representatives on Tuesday to give the NCIP just P1,000 for 2018.
The agency has failed to protect indigenous peoples (IPs) from human rights abuses and is even “complicit” in attacks on national minorities, according to the Save our Schools (SOS) Network.
The budget slash for the NCIP was proposed by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, who said the agency had failed to prevent the killing of lumad leaders.
The NCIP enforces the protection granted to indigenous peoples by the 1997 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Ipra) and grants certificates of ancestral domain title and certificates of ancestral land title.
According to Domulot, the House decision may be the “revenge of lawmakers who have mining interests in the domains of indigenous peoples since they cannot remove the provision of free and prior informed consent [which is enforced by Ipra, or Republic Act No. 8371].”
“Do these lawmakers want us to go on our knees and beg them to help NCIP?” he asked.
Ricardo Guiao, an Aeta who organizes communities in Porac town in Pampanga province, said the House decision was unjust. “If they proceed to give the NCIP just P1,000, there won’t be government services for indigenous peoples’ communities,” he said.
Guiao said Congress should give priority to the NCIP now that the agency was implementing the mandatory representation of indigenous peoples on councils at the barangay, town, city and provincial levels.
“I hope the lawmakers would reconsider their decision,” he added.
In Tagum City, SOS Network spokesperson Rius Valle said the group had long called for the abolition of the NCIP because of its role in the military’s counterinsurgency campaign that brought violence and disaster to lumad communities.
“The NCIP failed not only in responding to the plight of the lumad, but it has also become instrumental in grabbing land of and deceiving the [national minorities],” Valle said.
Through free, prior and informed consent under Ipra, Valle said the NCIP had given foreign mining firms an opportunity to rob lumad farmers of their lands and destroy their communal ways of owning land by enabling a handful of lumad leaders ownership of vast tracts of tribal land.
Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Surigao del Sur and coconvenor of Friends of the Lumad said what was really needed was a review of the law that created the NCIP.
Villasanta said that despite its existence, the NCIP had not helped the sector that it was meant to uplift and protect. —With reports from Madonna T. Virola and Michael B. Jaucian
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