BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) passed a resolution urging the Congress of the Philippines to enact a law suspending the period of availment for indigenous peoples to secure land titles to their ancestral lands under the provisions of Commonwealth Act 141 as provided in Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) or Republic Act (RA) 8371 of 1997 until such time that all IPs shall have availed of the benefits of the said availment.
Section 12 of the IPRA recognizes individual ancestral land ownership for members of cultural communities, acquired by themselves of through their predecessors’ interest and under their continuous possession and occupation in the concept of ownership since time in memorial.
The region’s policy-making body stated that the option granted under Section 12 of the IPRA shall be exercised within 20 years from its approval which will subsequently end in October 2017.
Further, the RDC-CAR added that the non-issuance of the necessary implementing rules and regulations to implement the said IPRA provision by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) denied the indigenous peoples the opportunity to obtain titles of ownership under the explicit provision of the IPRA.
In cognizance of RDC-CAR Resolution No. 52, series of 2014, the Congressional Oversight Committee on Indigenous Peoples directed DENR and NCIP to issue a Joint Memorandum circular, which is reportedly now at the University of the Philippines (UP) Law Center for review.
The RDC-CAR stated that there is a need for Congress to suspend the implementation of the prescribed availment period of indigenous peoples of titles over their ancestral lands considering that such provision was never implemented for over a decade that deprived indigenous peoples of their right to own the lands that they have occupied since time in memorial and that the provision shall be applicable until such time that all indigenous peoples shall have availed of the benefits of the IPRA provision.
The RDC-CAR added that it is best for Congress to suspend the 20-year availment period of indigenous peoples for the titling of their lands under Section 12 of IPRA because numerous indigenous peoples from the different parts of the region were not able to avail of the benefits of such provision, thus, the need for Congress to suspend the prescribed period until such time that all indigenous peoples nationwide shall have availed of the benefits of having titles over their ancestral lands.
The approved RDC-CAR resolution will be forwarded to both the House of Representatives and the Senate through the duly elected representatives from the different congressional districts in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) for their information and for their appropriate action and to the RDCs of all regions in the country for their support in order to warrant the immediate passage of the desired legislation.