In the face of poverty, uncertainty of abode, and other concerns, indigenous peoples (IPs) in the Philippines celebrate the 25th Indigenous Peoples Sunday on October
13, with the theme "Empower-ment of Indigenous Peoples Toward Solidarity".
Facilitated by the Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples (ECIP) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
(CBCP), the celebration aims to draw attention to the unfortunate state of members of over 100 ethnolinguistic groups living in the country today.
Tony Abuso, ECIP program coordinator, reports that the
three major problems confronting IPs today are loss or uncertainty of ownership and control of ancestral domain, dislocation or displacement due to the intrusion of megaprojects into their ancestral domain,
and absence or lack of basic social services such as health, education, and infrastructure.
"The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) finds the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights
Act (IPRA) complicated," Abuso said.
Abuso explained that the IPRA's conflict with other laws and the interference of other government agencies particularly in the awarding of Certificates of Ancestral
Domain Titles (CADT) and Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles (CALT) cause these complications. "This situation is worsening the condition of IPs," he added.
ECIP/NASSA executive secretary Sr. Rosanne
Mallillin, S.P.C., said the Arroyo government is not exerting sincere effort to address the issue. "The awarding of a CADT to the IPs of Bakun, Benguet, two days before the State of the Nation Address of
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo shows the tokenism with which her administration is dealing with this issue," Sr. Rosanne noted.
Commenting on Arroyo's promise to award 100 CADTs as
reflected in her first SONA, Sr. Rosanne said that "Arroyo's SONA report on this area would have been zero if the Bakun CADTs were not awarded a couple of days before she delivered her speech."
only to follow up with government as to how many more CADTs, if any, have been awarded since then," Sr. Rosanne added.
The IPRA, otherwise known as Republic Act 8371, was passed in 1997 to protect and
promote the rights of IPs over their ancestral domain, to social justice and human rights, self-governance and empowerment, and cultural integrity.
Said law, however, is believed to be inadequate in
addressing the many concerns of the country's IPs.
In the occasion of the Year of the World's Indigenous Peoples, which was held in 1993, the CBCP issued a pastoral letter bemoaning the conditions of IPs
in the country.
"The Church deplores and condemns the present treatment by government and big business of the indigenous peoples in their disregard of the latter's rights to their ancestral domain. It
borders at times on the dehumanizing," the CBCP said.
Festivities leading to the celebration of the 25th Indigenous Peoples Sunday were launched in a special liturgical celebration followed by a
series of activities on September 28 and 29 in Baguio City, participated in by IP delegates from around the country.
The launching included exposure visits by the delegates to indigenous communities
in the Vicariate of Baguio-Benguet, a press conference, symposium and intercultural sharing among IP delegates.