Bla’an chieftain is GenSan’s first lumad rep to city council

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 23 July) – A B’laan tribal chieftain has formally assumed as the first representative of the city’s Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Cultural Communities (IP/ICC) in the Sangguniang Panlungsod or the city council.

Fulong Mario Empal officially took his oath on Tuesday before City Mayor Ronnel Rivera as the city council’s IP/ICC representative in a simple ceremony held at the city council session hall.

In a statement, Mayor Rivera hailed the assumption of Empal as the newest member of the city council that is mandated by Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 2007.

He vowed to provide the necessary assistance to allow Empal to properly undertake his mandates, duties and responsibilities.

“The city government will work (with him) to ensure that the needs and other vital concerns of the IPs in the city are properly provided for and addressed,” he said.

The mayor urged the IP representative to raise all concerns affecting their sector and initiate efforts to ensure that they will be heard and eventually attended to.

Vice Mayor Shirlyn Bañas-Nograles, the city council’s presiding officer, welcomed the assumption of Empal as councilor and official representative of the area’s IP sector or community.

She described the move as historic for the city, especially the city council and the IP community, and “an ideal conclusion to the long road towards the realization of IP representation” at the council.

“This is an important step towards a more inclusive representation in the city council,” the vice mayor said.

Empal, who will serve as IP representative at the city council for the next three years, was chosen in January for the post in a selection process facilitated by the local government and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The NCIP in Region 12 issued on January 21 a certificate of affirmation regarding the selection of Empal by the IP and Indigenous Cultural Communities’ sector in the city but his formal assumption was put on hold pending the setting of the guidelines and to allow the city council to make the necessary preparations.