Luzon Indigenous Peoples Assembly

September 9, 2011

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to the first Indigenous Peoples’ Regional Assembly, which we convene today.
In convening this assembly, I am particularly grateful to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for gathering our IP leaders all over Luzon.
We thank the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Tourism, the Department of Education, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the International Labor Organization for supporting this important initiative.
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities and Committee on Climate Change, allow me to briefly share with you the context in which we assemble here today.
We have made significant strides in protecting the rights of our IPs over the past twenty years, highlighted by the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, which restored your rights over your ancestral domains and recognized the need to preserve the cultural integrity of your communities. However, significant improvement in the communities’ socio-economic and cultural well-being is still wanting. Much is desired to ensure improved access to basic health services and education, sustainable development of ancestral lands and resources, economic empowerment, and development of traditional knowledge, skills and practices.
This Regional Assembly seeks to provide a platform in helping communicate and achieve these objectives through our collective efforts. We envision this assembly to serve as a mechanism to strengthen the voices of the IP leaders as you engage in dialogue with local and national policy-makers as well as international institutions. This assembly will hopefully serve as a foundation and focal point upon which a longer-term process of engagement and discussion can be launched and sustained.
We invited local government officials, provincial and regional officers of various government agencies and members of the academe to this gathering, whose presence we deem crucial in documenting this process, enjoining greater support and calling for immediate action.
Allow me to present to you the components of this assembly.
Recognizing that our IPs rely largely on ancestral lands, forests, and watersheds and are directly affected by the adverse effects of climate change, the DENR will explain the impact of climate change, adaptation measures and protection of the rights of IPs and opportunities for engagement in the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) Program.
We will also share with you documentaries that I have produced, “Buhos” and “Ulan sa Tag-Araw” which describe the science of climate change and present its social, economic and health impacts on vulnerable populations.
Tomorrow, the ILO will hold a capacity-building forum for IP Leaders on ILO Convention 169: The Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, which espouses IPs’ right to enjoy the full measure of human rights and fundamental freedom without hindrance or discrimination.
The NCCA, NCIP, IP leaders and cultural workers will present best practices in preserving Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices. Successful initiatives that have taken roots in communities and have improved the welfare of IPs will be showcased. We will also hear success stories on IP Cultural Enterprise and Creative Industries.
It is our hope that this exchange of ideas, experiences and struggles be a beginning of a meaningful and effective dialogue.
Let me reiterate that this assembly is essentially a consultation. I wish to take this rare chance of listening to and understanding your concerns.
The Senate Committee on Cultural Communities and Committee on Climate Change bring its inquiry outside the four halls of the Senate committee room to gather your views on the Committee’s priority measures and help address your needs through legislation and other initiatives.
Let me outline measures for the benefit of our IPs that we intend to prioritize.
First, it is of utmost importance that we determine exactly the total population and location of IPs. To date, the government uses outdated figures, leading to the inability to address IPs’ needs and provide basic services. This is what impelled me to file Senate Bill No. 2858 or the Ethnic Origin Act. It is my hope that we finally acquire accurate and aggregated data on our IPs.
As a means to protect our indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage, I have also filed Senate Bill No. 2831 or theTraditional Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act , which seeks to make an inventory of all cultural properties and mandates the payment of royalties to our IPs for the use of these cultural properties.
I will soon defend in plenary the proposed Anti-Ethnic or Racial Profiling and Discrimination Act of 2011, which seeks to penalize acts of discrimination in employment, education, delivery of goods, facilities and services, accommodation, transportation, media, and in search and investigatory activities.
Other proposed measures deal with (1) providing ICCs with access to information and communications technology; (2) establishment Pilot Housing Projects in each and every region, which shall serve as model human settlements that will adhere to IPs’ cultures and traditions; (3) creation of the Philippine Center for Studies on Indigenous Cultural Communities in the University of the Philippines; (4) granting NCIP a new ten (10) year period within which to take appropriate legal action on illegally acquired titles; (5) recommending to the DENR the institutionalization of indigenous practices and the widespread utilization of IPs’ approach to protect Philippine forests; and (6) inquiring on the implications on IPs of the implementation of the REDD and REDD+ Programs.
Before we open the floor for your views or questions, we will welcome remarks from our local government officials.
We also invite interventions from representatives of government agencies and other sectors.
I look forward to a fruitful discussion. I would like to hear from all you present here today.
Thank you very much.