By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) office in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) will prioritize the securing and management of ancestral lands in identified “red areas” to restrict and end the influence of communist rebels in the region.
The office underscored that the confirmation of the Indigenous Political Structure (IPS), delineation of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) towards the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plan (ADSDPP) is crucial in the campaign.
Participants from NCIP-CAR identified the strategy, in line with the “Whole of Nation Approach” of the Duterte administration, during the National Management Conference of the agency, held at Quezon City on July 30 to 31.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) named 47 areas in the region during the recent Regional Development Council meeting as the most vulnerable communities to most likely lean to the side of the communist rebels. Among the identified factors for their vulnerability to the New People’s Army (NPA) presence and influence are the lack of government presence and services.
“These three components are symbiotic with each other – one cannot stand alone without the aid of the other”, said NCIP CAR Regional Director Atty. Roland Calde.
According to him, executed properly, the three components will usher “self-sustaining and self-governing” communities even with minimal assistance from the government and “influence of the [Communist Party of the Philippine].”
To date, there are 138 Ancestral Domains in CAR with 26 issued with titles, but only six with registered CADTs at the Registry of Deeds. The regional office is proposing an average of P1.2 million funding for each ancestral domain delineation, P500,000 for IPS confirmation and another P500,000 for the formulation or upgrading of the ADSDPP.
NCIP Chairperson Allen Capuyan, a retired member of the armed forces, claimed during the conference that these “self-sustaining and self-governing ancestral lands” are considered “IP Nations” themselves within the Philippine nation.
Calde said that besides ensuring the delivery of service towards the recognition of their rights to self-govern their ancestral lands, the government, through the NCIP “will be winning back the hearts and minds of the disgruntled IPs by pouring available funds to Social, Economic and Development livelihood projects within the IP communities.”
Last month, during a press briefing on the sidelines of the regional planning of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in the city, National Security Council (NSC) deputy director-general Vicente Agdamag said that they are eyeing CAR as a model for the “Whole of Nation Approach”.
Since its establishment, different groups have criticized the NCIP for its failure to protect indigenous peoples and their communities against destructive projects and militarization. There have also been claims of from the ground of its connivance with corporations.
Recently, NCIP-CAR and the Commission en banc also drew criticisms from indigenous peoples’ advocates for failing to enforce its own free and prior informed consent (FPIC) guidelines in the China-funded Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in Kalinga.
Sandugo, the national alliance of Moro and indigenous peoples, have been calling for the abolition of the office. The group said that NCIP has done nothing to ensure the protection of indigenous peoples. They accused the office of “twisting indigenous socio-political systems” and paving the way for “development aggression” in their ancestral lands.
The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) has also raised in the past the agency’s failure to ensure free, prior and informed consent in areas where the military establishes their camps and recruit CAFGUs. Under the law and principles of FPIC, the consent of indigenous peoples is required before the military can set up temporary or permanent military facilities or recruit members for paramilitary units.
During the second reading of the 2018 budget, the House of Representatives gave the office a P1000 budget and called for its closure citing its failure to protect indigenous peoples’ rights. The house leadership eventually agreed to restore their budget after a meeting with the head of the agency. nordis.net / Photo from NCIP Facebook Page