BAGUIO CITY – “The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act and our office [the NCIP] were enacted and established to correct injustices of the past”, said NCIP-CAR Regional Director Roland Calde who also chairs the Regional Development Council’s Committee on Indigenous Peoples’ Concerns (RDC-CIPC) during the CIPC fourth quarter meeting on November 7.

Calde cited past instances of development aggression against indigenous peoples (IPs) as the basis for the formulation of the IPRA. He also explained that NCIP was “created to regulate government projects”, Calde further stated that “it is a difficult task as there is a perception among government agencies that we are anti-development while the private sector claims that we sell ancestral lands”. Calde emphasized that IPs must be included in national development.

In reference to the IPRA provisions on self-governance and self-determination, Calde reiterated that the clamor for regional autonomy in the Cordillera emphasizes more control and management of natural resources, its corresponding tax revenue, and the ability of the region to determine development direction.

These are powers that the national government held despite the unique historical, cultural, and geographical characteristics of the region and its people. In 2006, The Cordillera Regional Development Council adopted autonomy as the best direction to fast track development in the region and has since worked towards achieving this goal.

Mr. Art Aro of NEDA-CAR emphasized that beyond preserving culture and tradition, IPs must have the opportunity to use their culture for development and enrichment rather than having outsiders profit and enrich themselves from the Indigenous Peoples’ intellectual properties and resources.

The Cordillera RDC is unique among all regions because it established a sectoral committee focused on IPs’ concerns. The committee discussed and addressed various IP development concerns during the meeting such as the joint resolution with the Regional Research, Development, and Innovation Committee (RRDIC) to ease Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) guidelines for researchers, the Cordillera Weaving Industry Plan, and the difficulties experienced by IPs both from government security forces and communist terrorist groups.

Relatedly, the CPIC expanded its membership to include more groups like members from the Armed Forces, regional line agencies, and Civil Society Organizations who are undertaking programs and projects on culture and as well as IPs’ empowerment.