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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
H.E. Lauro L. Baja, Jr.
Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
Agenda item 64 – Indigenous issues
No less than the Philippine Constitution recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development. This commitment is reaffirmed in our national law on indigenous peoples’ rights, the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, which concretizes this constitutional mandate.
The Philippines’ policies and actions to operationalize this commitment remain based on the foundations of human rights and the development of our indigenous communities. The implementation of President Arroyo’s ten-point priority agenda is aimed at ensuring that our indigenous members are fully included in the development process, and at the same time empowered as active agents of development. As land lies at the core of the lives of our indigenous communities, the building block of our work is securing land tenure for them, in tandem with the implementation of a framework plan for the sustainable development and protection of ancestral domains. From 2003 up to the present, the government has issued 48 Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles covering more than 841,148 hectares of land for over 31,346 beneficiaries. But our work does not stop there. Through our National Commission, the government also provides livelihood projects that promote self-sufficiency. In 2005, 142 livelihood projects have been undertaken benefiting 1,136 families. These projects are buttressed by capacity-building programs and modules, such as entrepreneurial training, agro-industrial technology transfer, technical and financial cooperative assistance and social infrastructure support services.
Our National Commission on Indigenous Peoples also partners with the Department of Health in promoting and protecting indigenous peoples’ right to health, particularly in the elimination of tuberculosis, malaria and filariasis. Indigenous communities now have better access to health services by availing themselves of free medical services and by being covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation. In the area of education, we have developed a culture-sensitive core curriculum for indigenous students and, for the schoolyear 2004-2005, our educational assistance program has helped 9,135 indigenous scholars in the elementary, high school and college levels.
The government is currently sharpening its efforts in response to reports of human rights violations, including those against certain members of the indigenous folk. The President has condemned, in the harshest possible terms, these acts of killings and vowed to bring to justice the perpetrators. Along the same vein, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples has expressed a strong statement of indignation against the heinous acts that were committed against members of indigenous communities.
As a long-term strategy to protect human rights, the government addresses the root causes of these violations and, at the same time, improves on its legal empowerment and human rights capabilities to deal with these issues. Our framework to protect the human rights and promote the development of indigenous peoples rests on the following:
First, the fast-tracking of ancestral domain delineation
Third, the enhancement of the Free and Informed Consent Process to be more protective to the interests of indigenous communities, but at the same time ensuring an investment-friendly environment to spur peace and development in indigenous areas; and
Fourth, the strengthening of the Indigenous Peoples Consultative Body to serve as a feedback and feed-forward mechanism, applying a rights-based approach in the process.
We have also embarked on several important initiatives lately to respond to emergency situations facing indigenous communities. For example, the National Commission has been strengthening its Quick Response Unit to act on critical situations such as disasters by decentralizing its functions at the field level. Also, the Commission has been enhancing the manpower and financial capability of the Office of Empowerment and Human Rights and the Legal Affairs Office to strategically attend to reports of human rights violations against indigenous peoples. Data collection is also being enhanced by more effective partnerships among the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights and other human rights institutions.
In line with the commitment to strengthen the protection of human rights through the monitoring of human rights situations, we have been stepping up consultations, including with the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, to prepare for a second visit to the Philippines in February 2007 by Mr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples.
At this session, the General Assembly is set to adopt the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Philippines supports the much-awaited completion of this process, a global undertaking that took more than two decades to develop. The Draft Declaration, in conjunction with our national law on the rights indigenous members, will solidify and enhance the human rights foundations of the work to improve the lives of our indigenous members.
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