"Empowerment of the IPs is the expression and realization of their full potential," he told a gathering of Mindanao Lumads here. "If you have a congressman, you have pork barrel. If you have pork barrel, you will have access to opportunities," he said.
Among the opportunities that will empower the Lumads, Reyes said, are investments on mining from multinational companies.
"We welcome investment because it is an engine of growth. It addresses poverty and it gives employment," he said. "Our IPs are not given sufficient services and opportunity from the government. I do not see any reason why they shouldn't have that same opportunity given to us. These opportunities will empower them", he added.
Fulong Samuel M. Gangoso, a B'laan tribal leader, said empowerment of the IPs should include the issuance of titled ancestral domains where "we can manage ourselves." "Our ancestral domain is our chance for self-governance. If we manage
ourselves, we will allow investors to come in. We have to mine, provided that the miners will take responsibility over their actions and as long as it is in accordance with our customary laws," he said.
The Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA), provides that the State "shall recognize, respect and protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions" and "shall consider these rights in the formulation of national plans and policies." Datu Joel Unad, chair of the Mindanao Indigenous People's Conference for Peace and Development (MIPCPD) recognizes that conflicts may arise should they allow investors to do business in their area. "We must encourage investments but we should not sacrifice our cultural heritage. There should be a balance," he said.
Under IPRA, customary laws and practices shall be used to resolve the dispute. It also advocates the "primacy of customary laws and practices" of the Lumads. This means that conflicting parties shall amicably settle their disputes by exhausting first all remedies available in customary laws before resorting to regular courts. Any doubt or ambiguity in the application and interpretation of laws shall be resolved in favor of the indigenous peoples.