BAGUIO CITY – The newly installed Commissioner of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) vowed to initiate an internal cleansing within the Commission to help bring back the trust and confidence of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in the implementation of the programs, projects and activities geared towards uplifting the status of IPs in the different parts of the country, especially in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions.
NCIP Commissioner for Region I and the Cordillera Gaspar Cayat said it is important to implement a massive internal cleansing within the Commission itself even if heads will have to roll so that the real intent of the Indigenous peoples Rights Act (IPRA) will be sincerely implemented.
“We have to admit that the NCIP has been dragged into numerous controversies over the past two decades thus it is high time for the Commission to undergo the much needed internal cleansing to improve the perception of the people that the Commission is not actually working for the welfare of the indigenous peoples,” Commissioner Cayat stressed.
He added that another priority initiative he will undertake with the Commission is the overall review of all existing applications for the issuance of ancestral land titles by indigenous peoples to ascertain those passed the criteria and deadline and those that were not able to pass the same will be returned unrecorded to the applicants.
According to him, he wants to stop the unscrupulous practice of some enterprising ancestral land claimants who file their applications with the Commission, plot the same with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and collect huge sums of money from the actual occupants of the properties subject of the application for ancestral land titles.
Further, Commissioner Cayat asserted one of the programs in the pipeline is the reported strengthening of the rules for the conduct of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process which had obviously been allegedly the subject of abuse that caused an uproar among IPs affected by the implementation of development projects within their ancestral domains.
He pointed out now is the time to introduce certain changes to the different programs, projects and activities of the Commission to effectively and efficiently address prevailing issues and concerns of the present times on the welfare of IPs.
The NCIP Commissioner underscored there is a need to sustain the implementation of programs, projects and activities geared towards the upliftment of the welfare of indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities pursuant to the objectives of the IPRA so that the negative perception of the IPs against the Commission will be erased.
Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the IPRA took effect in November 1997 purposely to implement programs, projects and activities that will help in improving the status of IPs and ICCs in the different parts of the archipelago for them to be empowered to become instruments of change.
By Dexter A. See