MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 18 Oct) – About 700 lumad leaders attending the 1st Bukidnon Provincial Indigenous Peoples Congress signed Wednesday a resolution urging President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to give incentives to local government units with mandatory IP representatives to local legislative councils.
In a one-page resolution, the congress participants urged the President to issue a budget circular through the Department of Budget and Management stipulating that 10 percent of the LGUs’ internal revenue share be allotted as statutory share for indigenous peoples’ programs, projects and activities.
Carl Binayao, community relations officer of the National Commission on Indigenous People-Bukidnon office, which composed the secretariat of the congress, said the participants wanted LGUs to treat the 10 percent like the mandatory five-percent calamity funds and other similar funds.
At the same time, the resolution also asked for Mr. Aquino to consider as his “urgent and priority agenda” the legislation of the increase of the IRA of LGUs with mandatory IP representatives.
The congress participants noted that with the signing of the declaration of the Bukidnon IPs’ seven-point legislative agenda last Wednesday, the IPs have invoked their rights to participate in the decision making process of government.
The IPs, the resolution added, also invoked the prioritization of development policies, programs, projects, and activities as provided in Sections 16 and 17 of the Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997.
“The local government units in the province of Bukidnon have very limited funds to address the issues and concerns of indigenous cultural communities and the IPs,” said the congress participants, composed of representatives from council of elders, mandatory representatives from the barangay, municipal, city, and provincial legislative councils, and other tribal associations.
Datu Cosme Lambayon, NCIP commissioner for northern and western Mindanao, told MindaNews that the late Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo initiated a similar move in the tradition patterned after the Seal of Good Housekeeping among LGUs.
“It is difficult but it can be done. We will lobby for it,” said Lambayon, who comes from the Matigsalug tribe.
He said the NCIP recognizes the advance promotion of IP rights in Bukidnon, adding that the province is indeed the first in the country to do such a congress among all IP leaders.
The participants came from Bukidnon’s seven major ethnic tribes, namely, Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahanon, Talaandig, Umayamnon, Bukidnon and Higaonon.
Earlier this year, NCIP-Bukidnon announced that Bukidnon will be the first province in the country to have selected mandatory IP representatives to its 464 barangay councils, 20 towns and two cities and the provincial government.
In the congress, it was known that only the mandatory representative to the provincial board and the representatives to the City of Malaybalay and seven towns were able to assume their seats with allocation from the LGUs.
Datu Magdalino Pandian, IP representative to the provincial board, told this reporter earlier that most LGUs invoke having no budget.
Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., who was among those who gave their reactions to the seven-point agenda, said he will seek for the provincial board to pass a resolution exerting pressure to 14 LGUs, including the City of Valencia, to accommodate their mandatory IP representatives.
But he noted that making barangay councils accommodate the IP representatives at the village level will be even more difficult because of the lack of budget.
Zubiri vowed local funding to augment limited NCIP funds for the processing of certificates of ancestral domain titles (CADT), which Lambayon welcomed.
The IP agenda covered expressions of proposed policies and programs on the rights to ancestral domain, the rights to self-governance and self determination, the rights to social justice and human rights, and the rights to cultural identity.
Organizers and participants cited the success of the congress.
But Ma. Shirlene Sario, provincial NCIP officer, noted the slow and low financial support from most LGUs citing they have to incur a loan to fund the estimated P1.9-million budget for the congress.
The biggest contributor so far, she added, was the City of Malaybalay, the host LGU with P200,000 to pay for the registration of 200 participants.
Organizers charged a registration fee but not all IP leaders were able to pay or give the full amount.
In her presentation on the opening of the congress last Monday, Sario cited the pittance budget that NCIP receives from the government and urged the mandatory representatives to do their share in their respective LGUs to augment the budget to support IP projects, programs and activities. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)