Baguio City – This was underscored during the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC) Kapihan on the state of the region’s affairs on July 29, 2020.

RDC Vice-Chair and NEDA Dir. Milagros Rimando reported that the region performed well in its goal of ensuring cultural integrity and identity with the continuous work in promoting indigenous peoples’ (IP) rights. She emphasized the importance of sustaining the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in the region’s development process.

She cited the lesson from the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in 2019 which involved the provinces of Kalinga and Cayagan in Region 2. Implementation problem resulted to the passage of the RDC resolution requesting that CAR participates in the FPIC process and public consultations for projects involving the region and other resource regions. Rimando added that this will be observed in the ongoing Ilocos Norte-Ilocos Sur Agricultural Irrigation Project which covers Abra and Region1 provinces.

Michael Umaming of NCIP asserted that, “the best protection that we can give to protect the IPs is to respect their right to the FPIC process. Kelangan palakasin ito to respond to projects such as extractive industries that will change the landscape (The FPIC should be strengthened to respond to projects such as extractive industries that will change the landscape)”.

Relatedly, CAR was also able to complete 60 Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plans (ADSDPPs) and updated at least 26 plans to date, out of the total 148 ADSDPP target for the entire region. Rimando said that these plans should be completed if “we are serious in using the ADSDPPs as the basic basis for regional planning”.

These plans highlight the importance of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSPs) that are unique to each of the indigenous groups in the region. The adoption of these in local development plans and policies recognizes the rights of IPs to chart the development that they want.

Indigenous Peoples’ Concerns Committee (CIPC) Co-Chair and RDC Private Sector Representative Mr. Ryan Mangusan reported the increasing number of documented IKSPS and Customary Laws.

Similarly, RDC Chair and Abra Gov. Joy Bernos backed the recognition of the rights and culture of IPs emphasizing that the Cordillera people’s resilience from the current health crisis is attributed their unique cultural practice of “binnadang” or the practice of helping and looking out for each other.  She also echoed the administration’s call to heal and recover as one.