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BONTOC, Mountain Province – The province’s Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) urged Indigenous Peoples (IPs) must continue to advocate, asset and fight for their rights and for them to be vigilant and protect the said rights.
Boardmember Thomas Tawagen, Sr. pointed out that the celebration of IP month is a living testament of the existence of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) that empowered IPs around the country to fight for their rights over their ancestral domain from the abuses that were done by the government and multinational companies interested to exploit the rich resources within the said domain.
Further, he claimed that the celebration of IP month serves as a memory of the long time abuses that were committed against the Ips and that for the longest time, there were numerous laws, programs and projects that are not in conformity with the customs and traditions and the situation of the IPs in the different parts of the country, especially the Cordillera which is predominantly composed of IPs.
With the enactment of the IPRA, Tawagen argued that the government admitted that there is a need for the State to recognize the rights of the IPs to lessen or eventually eradicate the abuses being continuously committed against the IPs.
However, the boardmember stated that the enactment of the IPRA does not mean that IPs can finally enjoy all their rights as IPs, the enactment of the IPRA does not mean that IPs are finally treated well, it does not mean that IPs are not neglected, it does not mean that IPs are no longer discriminated again, it does not mean that IPs can finally enjoy the rights due them, it does not mean that there are no laws, policies, programs and projects that disregard the IP rights, and it does not mean that IPs are no longer oppressed.
He stated that the IPs should just not celebrate IP month because of Proclamation 1906 but IPs must celebrate the same by understanding their rights and continue to assert the acquisition of the said rights.
Moreover, he challenged the IPs to celebrate IP month by renewing their advocacy of IP rights and for them to march on to advance their rights as IPs.
According to him, the IPRA was enacted and signed into law because government recognized that the IPs in the country have long experienced discriminations, exploitations, oppressions and marginalization.
Tawagen noted that IPs, through resistance to political, social and political inroads of colonization, non-indigenous religious and cultures, became historically differentiated from the majority of Filipinos.
The boardmember stipulated that the IPs should not forget that the IPRA and other liberal laws such as the rights of the workers, wage increase in both the private and government sectors, laws on the preservation and protection of the environment, laws on the protection of women’s rights, among others had been realized because of the aggressive advocacies and assertions of the concerned sectors for the recognition of their rights.
Proclamation 1906 declared October as IP month because it was on October 1997 that the IPRA was signed into law by former President Fidel Valdez Ramos.