Senator Loren Legarda’s Keynote Speech
Conference on Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET)
for Indigenous People of the ASEAN
November 19, 2014 – The Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros, Manila
In this day and age of technology and globalization, the knowledge systems and traditions of indigenous communities are threatened to be left in the memories of the elders, completely lost as they pass away.
Asia is home to two-thirds of the world’s 300 million indigenous peoples. They share a common situation with other indigenous peoples in other parts of the world. Because of historic injustices of the past — dispossession of lands and resources, and continuing discrimination — indigenous peoples are one of the sectors most adversely affected by globalization. This phenomenon not only threatens to marginalize indigenous communities, it threatens the very foundation of their existence and identity.
Our IPs are threatened by unsustainable extractive industries and development projects that encroach and ravage their lands without their informed consent. Their way of life is also adversely affected as they are uprooted from the very soil to which they are spiritually and fundamentally linked.
Despite modernization and acculturation, inevitable as these may be, we cannot turn a blind eye to these concerns because our indigenous communities, along with their vast knowledge, rich culture and traditions are vital in solidifying the mold of every nation’s identity. If we lose it, we may as well have lost who we are.
In December 2015, we expect the emergence of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The AEC will set the stage for ASEAN as a single market and production base that would create opportunities for business complementation, thereby transforming ASEAN into a vital segment of the global supply chain.
ASEAN’s bold vision of achieving the free flow of goods, services, investment, and skilled labor in the region may help us achieve higher productivity and economic diversification. But we have to consider a lot of things—our indigenous communities are among our concerns.
If prior to the AEC, indigenous communities are already left behind, how do we ensure that they are actually part and would benefit from this integration when it is already in effect?
Aside from protecting their traditional and intellectual property, IPs should be socially and economically empowered.
Foremost, basic services should be provided to them. Most indigenous communities are located in isolated and disadvantaged areas. This compels us to create a system that would enhance delivery of basic, social, technical and legal services.
Access to education is also a must. But we must likewise create more jobs and livelihood opportunities, because even after they receive formal education, our IPs will have to compete with many other graduates and unemployed citizens in seeking for employment.
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s (TESDA) Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is one way to address this concern. But while we empower our IPs through skills development and enhancement for employment in mainstream industries, I urge the creation of culture-based vocational courses.
Many of the products of our IPs are sought after in other countries especially in Western communities, but the supply, especially of handmade products, cannot keep up with the demand because a handwoven cloth made of abaca or handmade basket made of nito would take weeks or months to complete.
TESDA can partner with local government units and cultural agencies in creating such program.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is planning the implementation of the “One Family, One Loom” Project which aims to provide a loom to every family in weaving communities for purposes of cultural preservation and livelihood support. With skills training on weaving made available by TESDA, we may even extend the project to non-weaving communities as we spark interest on cultural skills.
We have to develop interest in traditional skills and likewise present the economic opportunities that can be derived from acquiring or improving on such skills.
We hope that in the long run traditional skills like hand weaving, embroidery, tabungaw-making, basket-weaving, pottery, would become common sights in both urban and rural communities like in our neighboring countries.
I am glad for this gathering hosted by TESDA because we will have an understanding on how other countries are implementing their TVET Programs for IPs. I look forward to this exchange of ideas among brilliant minds and I wish to welcome representatives from ASEAN member states and other guests as well.
Thank you and good morning.***
 Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact