LA TRINIDAD, Benguet, Philippines ?Congress is working on measures that would ban ethnic discrimination, create courts dedicated to tribal conflicts and shield ancestral lands from the pressures of the mining industry.
But the best news coming out of this year?s indigenous peoples? (IP) month launching ceremony was the confirmation that President Aquino is transferring back the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) under the Office of the President.
NCIP, is a bureau under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr., chair of the House committee on indigenous cultural communities, and Roque Agton Jr., NCIP chair, made the announcement on Friday, citing talks with Malacañang officials.
Baguilat said he was informed that the President planned to issue the order freeing NCIP from DENR this month.
Malacañang, he said, also asked indigenous Filipino organizations to start submitting their nominees for NCIP commissioners next week because Mr. Aquino planned to fill up three of six vacant NCIP posts.
Six NCIP commissioners, excluding Agton, were dismissed for being midnight appointees of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Baguilat, in a speech at the Benguet State University here on Friday, said Malacañang and Congress planned to enforce the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (Ipra) using IP aspiration for ?self determination and the right to use their own resources.?
?Our land is our identity and that is what we are really fighting [to protect],? he said.
Congress is deliberating on 10 bills and four proposed resolutions that address IP concerns, led by the antidiscrimination measures, Baguilat said.
Beverly Longid, Katribu president, said they urged Congress to ?review and rectify all discriminatory content? about indigenous Filipinos contained in the media, books and reference materials.
?The bill or a law against discrimination must penalize discrimination not only in the workplace, in education, in the delivery of goods and services and in accommodation or housing and other rights and welfare issues, but also those who discriminate through speech, utterances, hatred and violent acts, mockery and ridicule,? she said.
Agton said NCIP is also addressing legal conflicts with Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
He said DAR had started issuing Certificates of Land Ownership Award for ancestral lands, even though this is outside its mandate.