An orientation on the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) conducted on Oct. 2, 2014 marked off the start of this year’s celebration of the National Indigenous Peoples’ Month.

Atty. John Ray Libiran, former head of the NCIP-CAR, presented and explained the salient provisions of the IPRA to representatives of IP groups from all over the Province of Benguet and the City of Baguio.  Various regional line agencies were also represented in this activity that was spearheaded by the RDC-CAR’s Committee on Indigenous Peoples.

In his talk, Atty. Libiran explained that the main point for the IPRA is to achieve social justice and correct historical injustices in the Cordillera Region.  He said that the IPRA provides a levelling-off of opportunities for IPs and is in keeping  with the late President Magsaysay statement that those who have less in life should have more in law.

He also explained the steps for the formulation of the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP) and the current efforts to integrate it to the local development plans.

Clarifying some issues on the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process, Atty. Libiran explained the reasons behind the FPIC process. He also gave tips on how the IPs should be responding to the process, and how government agencies can shorten the process in terms of partnering with the NCIP in their government projects.

Among the concerns raised during the Open Forum was the need to protect indigenous knowledge,  systems and practices (IKSP).  Citing as an example the Cordillera’s indigenous dances, the need to document these and have them patented was underscored to ensure that these are done properly and remain to be recognized as part of Cordillera culture.

Other activities planned for the IP Month celebration include a General Assembly of IP Mandatory Representatives on Oct. 9-10 at the Benguet State University, a briefing on FPIC for RDC members (Oct. 8), and Heritage/Solidarity Walk and Declaring Mt. Pulag as a Sacred Site (Oct. 17).  The IP Month Celebration will be having its Closing Program in Mountain Province on Oct. 29 in Bontoc, Mountain Province, to coincide with the launching of the Lang-ay Festival.  (EGDaquipil)