BONTOC, Mountain Province – The National Commission on Indigenous People–Mountain Province Provincial Office (NCIP-MPPO) spearheaded the first Monday Program which kicked off the Indigenous Peoples’ Month Celebration held at the Provincial Capitol recently with the theme “Empowering Indigenous Peoples thru the Years”.
Highlights of the program were cultural presentations from the Tadian Cultural Group led by Tadian’s Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Ventura Bitot and from the NCIP-MPPO led by Provincial Officer Wilson K. Kalangeg. Also, Lilibeth C. Chapap of the same office conducted a Question and Answer portion to test the awareness of government employees on facts and concerns pertaining to IPs.
In his message, NCIP-MP Provincial Officer Wilson K. Kalangeg gave a glimpse of the history of Republic Act 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. Atty. Kalangeg said that at IPRA’s infant stage since its promulgation on October 29, 1997, its constitutionality has been challenged by a few who filed a case against it at the Supreme Court (SC). However, SC upheld the constitutionality of the IPRA is now in its 20th Founding Anniversary.
Kalangeg gave updates on accomplishments of NCIP vis-à-vis the implementation of programs for the protection of ancestral domain/ land.
“NCIP has been working on the protection of ancestral domain because of our intergenerational responsibility that we should pass our ancestral domain to the next generation,” Kalangeg said.
NCIP Administrative Order No. 3, s. 2012 (AO No. 3, s. 2012) or The Revised guidelines on Free and Prior Consent (FPIC) and Related Processes of 2012 spells out the Operating Principles of said guidelines. Section 4 (e) states, “The indigenous concept of ownership sustains the view that ancestral domains are considered community property which belong to all generations and therefore cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed.”
Moreover, Atty. Kalangeg also reported the NCIP was successfully negotiated for additional income from project for host communities in the province. With the imposition of AO No. 3, IPs in the host communities where mini-hydro projects were put up are now benefitting from their income share. The IP community in Namatec, Sabangan is getting .05% annual income share while host communities in Besao will be getting a share of nine million (9 M) per annum from the P 500, 000.00/ megawatt computation. Kalangeg said that said share is so far the highest negotiated IP share in the whole country.
Kalangeg further shared that Section 16 of IPRA has been fully implemented as the IPMRs from the provincial level down to the barangays were selected except for Paracelis wherein the selection of the municipal IPMR is still to be conducted. According to Atty. Kalangeg, the IPMR election may transpire soon as issues have already been resolved.
To further enunciate the significance of the IP Month Celebration, Kalangeg called upon Atty. Amador P. Batay-an, former NCIP-CAR Regional Director and now Mountain Province LGU’s Provincial Administrator, for a message.
“We celebrated our identity as civil servants last September. This month, we are going to celebrate another identity because we are going to highlight our being indigenous people. Our identity as indigenous people is one objective that we would like to achieve by advocating regional autonomy.
One of the core messages of regional autonomy is enhancing regional identity so that starting today, we should not be thinking of being i-Kalinga, of being i-Bontoc, of being Kankanaey; but we should be talking of being a Cordilleran for when we speak of our being Cordillerans, we enhance our identity and this include all persons who have domicile in the area,” Batay-an said.
Also, the Provincial Administrator stressed that our being indigenous peoples is one of the reasons of the existence of IPRA on top of Executive Order 22 (EO 22) signed by then President Corazon C. Aquino on July 15, 1987, creating the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) composed of the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga-Apayao (still one province then), Mountain Province and the City of Baguio. With these, Batay-an said that the people of Mountain Province must fight for what has been constitutionally provided – the creation of the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera before federalism will push through. This, he said, will ensure that the best interest of the people of the Cordillera will be safeguarded.
“If we cannot fight for autonomy as provided for in the constitution, how can we be sure that when we shall have a federal system of government, we can still become autonomous? The possibility is greater that the Cordillera will be lumped with the other regions and we will be back to our situation prior to the signing of EO 220 creating CAR. As gleaned from the past, it would be very difficult for our people to be transacting business elsewhere in the lowlands or wherever the regional offices will be established,” Batay-an added.