The heavy downpour of rain did not dampen the spirit of the Cordillerans to celebrate the World Indigenous People’s Day on August 9, 2016 at the City of Baguio.
The activity, which is part of the global commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (IPs) pronounced by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1994, aimed to inspire the call for change across the country and to impart the Indigenous Peoples Agenda.
A parade kicked off the celebration and a program was organized at the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) grounds where cultural presentations and messages of solidarity were given by invited guests.
The Regional Development Council (RDC) and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) of the Cordillera, represented by RDC- CAR Vice-Chair and NEDA- CAR Director Milagros A. Rimando, joined the celebration. In her message, Rimando said that the World IP day is one way of celebrating the Cordillera’s unique history and culture. “In fact, President Rodrigo Duterte, in his message during the Cordillera Month Celebration,affirmed that the Cordillera is a unique politico- cultural feature of the Philippines and for almost three decades recognized itself as one despite the region’s diversity,” she said. She added that it is time for the region to showcase its rich culture, and to focus on the challenges and issues faced by the indigenous peoples.
Rimando also underscored the importance of the RDC in crafting policies that will best respond to IP needs. She pointed out the publication of the Declaration of Principles on Environmental Governance (DPEG), which caters to the protection and recognition of IPs rights to their ancestral lands and domains. She also mentioned a resolution urging the Congressional Oversight Committee to compel the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to issue a joint Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR), which will allow indigenous peoples to be accorded land titles for ancestral lands that have been in their possession for 30 years, following the torrens system of DENR.
She further shared that the RDC believes that regional autonomy will address poverty and underdevelopment, which is felt by the IPs in the Cordillera. She said that since 2007, the RDC has been conducting projects and activities that will prepare the region towards autonomy as mandated under the 1987 Constitution.
An IP youth group from Taiwan also joined the celebration. The group reiterated that the prejudices felt by IPs in Taiwan are similar with other countries around the world. They shared that the IPs have to empower themselves and enhance their inherent rights to be competent infighting for their rights against political injustices and discrimination.
Other groups and individuals who joined in the celebration also shared the same sentiments with the IPs aspirations for justice as well as the recognition and respect for IP rights.
Part of the celebration includes the conductof an Elders Workshop on autonomy on August 29- 30 and a Multi- stakeholders’ Consultation on autonomy and federalism on August 31. These activities areco- organized by the RDC, CPA, University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB), and Cordillera Administrative Region Association of State Universities and Colleges (CARASUC).
Maridel Langbis, NEDA-SPCAR