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Indigenous peoples’ participation, inclusion, empowerment

The Philippine Constitution recognizes, respects, and protects the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions. Republic Act 8371, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IFRA) of 1997, guarantees rights to ancestral domain, self-governance and empowerment, social justice and human rights, education and cultural integrity. 28_08_2013_003_002_002The Philippines voted in favor of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.

Of the country’s estimated population of 94.01 million, IPs are said to comprise 10% or 9.4 million. They are groups of marginalized people who live as organized communities, retaining a close link with their customs and traditions, and pressing for their rights. The government and its partner institutions help IPs in their quest for cultural preservation, survival, and empowerment. Measures are being adopted to promote and protect their rights, especially human rights. Dialogues and consultations encourage them to express their needs and aspirations.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) train IP leaders on how to protect their rights and involve themselves in decision-making for local development. The National Community-Driven Development project, the DSWD anti-poverty program, the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services, ensures IP inclusion in community decision-making. The NCIP has also tied up with the Department of Health for “Kalusugan Pangkalahatan for Indigenous Peoples” to deliver quality, affordable healthcare for IPs. Assisted by local government units, other government offices, and academe, civil society, and other development partners, the program seeks to improve IP health and nutrition status, especially of women and children.

The Department of Education (DepEd) has allocated R100 million for school year 2013-2014 to fund capacity-building programs for IPs. The education program is DepEd’s response to the rights of IPs to education that respects their identity and supports their knowledge, skills, and cultural heritage.

We congratulate the National Center for Indigenous Peoples, headed by Chairperson Zenaida Brigida H. Pawid, other Officers and Personnel, in their efforts to adopt approaches and projects to respond to the needs and aspirations of indigenous peoples in the Republic of the Philippines. CONGRATULATIONS AND MABUHAY!