The Army’s 10th Infantry Division, the National Commission on Indigenous People(NCIP), Sulong Katutubo Inc., Supreme Tribal Council for Peace and Development (STCPD), Bantay Bayanihan, and The Association of Regional Executives of national Agencies (ARENA XI), conducted an Indigenous People’s Forum in the TESDA-11 building in Buhisan, Tibunco, this city on Wednesday.
The forum is the first in 17 years of NCIP with an objective to spread awareness and reinforce provisions in the Indigenous People’s Republic Act (IPRA) among the leaders and as well as to the national government agencies which are responsible for delivering basic services to the community.
The forum also seeks to identify adjustments to how national government agencies integrate the Indigenous People’s (IP) agenda into their development plan apart from current priorities and performance measures used in connection with the national bottom-up, performance based budgeting system.
Particular emphasis was given towards awareness and integration into the national agenda of the IP’s five framework agenda, specifically the ancestral domain, the IP political system, territorial defense, economic and social development, and quick reaction team concept to address national and man-made calamities.
Lt. General Aurelio B. Baladad, commander of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command was present among the national agency representatives, as well as Army 10th Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen, Eduardo M Año whose party included all battalion in brigade commanders in the division’s area of responsibility, currently most exposed to the IP and the ancestral domain in their assignments.
Lt. Gen. Baladad spoke about the AFP’s own programs and initiatives towards the IP, and delivered the closing remarks.
The forum also provided venue for different IP leaders to air out immediate concerns in an open forum.
The activity culminated with a presentation of a Manifesto of support by Lt. Gen. Baladad.
The prospect of creating a department out of the NCIP, and a localized regular forum to hear out IP concerned has been thoroughly discussed.
According to Capt. Ernest D. Carolina, spokesperson of the 10th infantry Division, Major General Año has been most enthusiastic about the initiative.
Carolina said, “He has put much emphasis on this forum to his subordinate commanders in these past few days.”
He also said, “The reason is that the IPs’ isolation has made them vulnerable to exploitation. If we could combine our efforts to make them more heard, and through our collaboration we are able to usher in services and development, this will ultimately lead to achieving peace and development in these IP communities, which is both our dream and our mandate.”
“We believe this all very relevant to our role as an organization. We have to ensure that the people are not isolated from the government’s services and security is only one aspect of this.
“The IPSP Bayanihan calls for a convergence of efforts, and what we had today is one example,” Carolina added.
Eastern Mindanao Command Statistics taken from a profile of NPA members from 2010 estimated that 74 percent of the NPA fighters are from the IP sector.
The command also places that more than 500 tribal leaders have been murdered by the lawless armed group by 2011. (PNA)