MALATE, Metro Manila, PH, October 24 – 28—238 key officers from the Regional and Provincial Offices and Community Service Centers (CSCs) of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Indigenous Peoples (IPs) gathered at the Century Park Hotel to celebrate and commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Acts (IPRA), a landmark social legislation, adopted on 29 October 1997.
The event was framed under the theme “IPRA@20: Empowering Indigenous Peoples through the Years.” Based on the anniversary motto, the conference reflected elements of IPRA’s evolution in the last 20 years: major highlights and challenges.
The conference, which also became a venue to envision NCIP’s further engagement for the empowerment of IPs, also featured various cultural presentations and a cultural fair that reflected the richness and variety of Philippine indigenous cultures.
The five-day conference had three focal points that guided the event, namely: Information-sharing and updates on the implementation of IPRA; national launching of the Philippine Indigenous Peoples Ethnographies (PIPEs) Project; and awarding of Certified Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT).
- Information-sharing and updates on the implementation of IPRA: Several participatory workshops were held that discussed the evolution, the status quo and ways forward for NCIP, especially the six thematic concerns such as (1) concerns around ancestral domains; (2) self-empowerment and human rights; (3) legal circumstances of IPRA; (4) cultural integrity; (5) special major concerns; and (6) peace and security.
- National launching of the Philippine Indigenous Peoples Ethnographies (PIPEs) Project: As one of the highlights, the new flagship project PIPEs was officially introduced and launched at the national level. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in an official ceremony by the PIPEs’ National Consortium consisting of high-level representatives of NCIP and other government agencies such the Commission on the Filipino Language, the National Museum, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, NEDA, NCCA, NAMRIA, LRA, DAR, DA, etc. The civil society organizations (CSOs) were represented by the Assisi Development Foundation, Foundation for the Philippine Environment, Tebtebba, Anthrowatch, CBCP-Episcopal Commission in Indigenous Peoples, and others. GIZ-COSERAM was officially asked to endorse the new flagship project as a special honour and recognition for the Programme’s long-lasting support to the project.
- Awarding of Certified Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT): A third highlight of the conference and the closing act was the awarding of five new CADTs. This showed that the NCIP continues to fulfil its constitutional mandate of strengthening IP rights throughout the country.
“Although the road of IPRA has always been controversial in the last 20 years, NCIP has shown great endeavours in empowering IPs around the country through the IPRA. To further secure the empowerment of IPs, NCIP’s main task for the future will be the full assertion of its mandate. PIPEs can help in this process, but a broader political coalition for IP rights will be needed. Therefore, NCIP’s cooperation with other government agencies will be a necessity in expanding the advocacy of IP rights through the IPRA,” said former Antique Governor Salvacion Z. Perez, who represented Senator Loren Legarda in the conference.