‘Indigenous Pinoys still face threats, injustices’
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — Not all indigenous Filipinos have benefited from the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Ipra) of 1997 (Republic Act No. 8371).
Thus, the government has begun a “housekeeping” process to amend or remove laws and policies that still treat them as subordinate members of society, indigenous peoples (IPs) advocates said here on Friday.
Speaking at a forum marking the 22nd anniversary of the Ipra enactment, Kalinga Rep. Allen Mangaoang said Congress was deliberating on measures that would amend land laws like the National Integrated Protected Areas System, which justify the eviction of indigenous communities in forest lands.
Lawmakers are also discussing a measure requiring government to survey IP settlements within Cordillera forest reservations so these could be exempted from the provision of the forest code that bans lands with 18 percent slope from being developed or inhabited, said Mangaoang, chair of the House committee on indigenous peoples.
Only Baguio City and Benguet province are exempted from the ban.
Another House measure extends by another 20 years the period granted to indigenous communities for perfecting and acquiring ancestral land or domain titles.
The same measure seeks to give the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) another 10 years to recover “legal domains that were illegally acquired” so these could be restored to their original IP owners, Mangaoang said.
The NCIP was only given two years to act, and that period lapsed in 1999, a year after the constitutionality of Ipra was questioned in the Supreme Court.
These proposed laws will support a government initiative to “get our house in order,” according to NCIP Chair Allen Capuyan.
He said: “Ipra was crafted to correct the historical injustice suffered by IPs, so why is there still injustice [given that IPs have self-determination using cultural and traditional practices]?”
Conflicts and rivalries between the NCIP and other land titling government agencies, the rise of companies and developers bent on exploiting ancestral lands, and rebel groups that lure disgruntled IP youths are some of the problems faced by the IP programs, said Capuyan, a former military intelligence chief. —VINCENT CABREZA
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