LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The House Committee on National Cultural Communities will conduct public hearings next month to look into questionable free and prior informed consent (FPIC) processes in relation to the exploitation, utilization and development of the resources within areas dominated by indigenous cultural communities and the failure of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to perform its mandate relative to the titling of ancestral domain of indigenous peoples.
Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan said numerous issues had been brought to their attention by various indigenous peoples from different parts of the country over the blatant favour given by the Commission to multinational companies that intend to exploit, utilize and develop the rich resources of indigenous peoples which deprive IPs of their rights and privileges.
Furthermore, Cosalan questioned the NCIP for its failure to adopt the needed joint implementing rules and regulations with the environment department on the issuance of ancestral domain titles of IPS and ICCs.
“It has come to our attention that the DENR submitted to the NCIP a draft of the joint implementing rules and regulations for the issuance of titles to lands occupied by IPs and ICCs but we are wondering why no action has been made by the Commission” Cosalan stressed.
Earlier, the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC) passed a resolution urging the Congress Oversight Committee to compel the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to issue the implementing guidelines of Section 12 of Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
Section 12 of the IPRA provides that individual members of cultural communities, with respect to their individually-owned ancestral lands who, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, have been in continuous possession and occupation of the same in the concept of owner since time immemorial or for a period of not less than thirty (30) years immediately preceding the approval of this Act and uncontested by the members of the same ICCs/IPs shall have the option to secure title to their ancestral lands under the provisions of Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, or the Land Registration Act 496.
For this purpose, said individually-owned ancestral lands, which are agricultural in character and actually used for agricultural, residential, pasture, and tree farming purposes, including those with a slope of eighteen percent (18%) or more, are hereby classified as alienable and disposable agricultural lands.
The option granted under Section 12 of the IPRA shall be exercised within twenty (20) years from the approval of this Act.
“We want to be clarified why the NCIP has not yet issued the requisite titles to the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples using the said Section when the lifespan of the law is about to expire,” Cosalan said.
He cited in Benguet alone, numerous abuses by multinational companies against indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities have been reported to the NCIP but no significant actions were made to address such issues and concerns that prompted the affected communities to seek the assistance of lawmakers.
According to him, the intention of the public hearings to be called by the House Committee on National Cultural Communities next month is to find out what are the needed legislations that will be passed in order to improve the implementation of the IPRA primarily for the benefit of the indigenous peoples and the indigenous cultural communities.
Cosalan disclosed reports reaching lawmakers indicate that NCIP personnel in the different parts of the country seem to favour the interest of multinational companies intending to exploit, develop and utilize the natural resources within the jurisdiction of IPs and ICCs.
The lawmaker asserted IPs and ICCs should not be shortchanged in the utilization and development of the resources within their jurisdiction because they were the ones who protected the same since time immemorial and that they deserve the utmost benefits from them once they are developed by interested developers.
By Dexter A. See