Legarda Seeks Immediate Passage Of Bills Protecting Indigenous Peoples’ Rights

May 27, 2015

Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, sponsored yesterday two legislative measures seeking to establish resource centers for indigenous peoples (IPs) and declaring August 9 as National Indigenous Peoples Day in her effort to promote and protect the rights of IPs all over the country.

In her sponsorship speech for Senate Bill 2209 or the Resource Centers For Indigenous Peoples Act and Committee Report No. 141 under House Bill No. 4420 or An Act Declaring August 9 as National Indigenous Peoples Day, Legarda stressed that many IPs remain vulnerable to violations and exploitations despite concerted efforts exerted by the government, various private organizations and international institutions.

The Senator noted that basic services remain wanting in most geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas. Further, the reported serious human rights violations, displacement from ancestral domain and destruction of natural environment and cultural values are among serious concerns.

“It is for these reasons that we continue to fight for policies and programs that would give our IPs the respect, recognition and opportunities due them. The centers shall serve as access centers to enhance delivery of basic, social, technical and legal services,” Legarda explained.

As intended, the IP Resource Centers shall serve as venue to promote participatory programs and projects for IPs, to effectively deliver their responsibilities under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), and to ensure implementation of their respective Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plans.

Further, these Centers shall help address problems of IPs and provide essential services such as employment, livelihood, enterprises, health services, scholarships and trainings and shall embark on the documentation of indigenous knowledge, systems and practices, indigenous political structures, and customary laws which are vital in achieving cultural integrity.

“As we continue to promote measures that will benefit our indigenous communities, we also urge our IPs to likewise continue to fight for their rights and to always protect our cultural heritage,” Legarda said.

Legarda also called for the declaration of a National Indigenous Peoples Day every August 9 which highlights the importance of the recognition, protection and promotion of the rights of IPs through policies, programs and activities in the national and local level towards inclusive development and genuine IP empowerment.

Said measure is in line with the UN General Assembly’s proclamation of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples every August 9.

“We are all aware of the depth and diversity of the challenges our IPs face. The question is: How sincerely and quickly will we address these issues that affect our IPs’ very survival? The timely approval of these measures attests to our commitment to champion the causes of our indigenous peoples and to engage them as active partners in development processes,” Legarda concluded.