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    Our People’s Journey to Healing and Progress

    27 October 2016

    Provincial Celebration of Indigenous Peoples Month & Thanksgiving Day, Provincial Gymnasium, Capitol Complex, Alabel, Sarangani Province

    Magandang araw po sa inyong lahat!

    Today is truly a special day for all of us here, as we celebrate the richness of your heritage and give appropriate thanks for the blessings that have visited you in the last year. Kaya mabuhay po kayong lahat!

    Blessings are especially precious among indigenous communities. Because yours is a history that has met more than its fair share of injustice and misfortune. And this is troubling, because your place in the Filipino community should be honored without doubt or pause.

    Kanina po I was having lunch with the governor, kinukwento ko po sa kanya na this month I have visited so many tribes already, because we are celebrating national Indigenous People’s Month. Galing na po ako sa Mindoro, binisita ko po yung mga Mangyan doon. Galing po ako sa Bukidnon, where I also met representatives of the seven tribes.

    Two weeks ago, I was in Ifugao and Mountain Province, where I also visited our tribes there. And today, I’m here in- kanina po nandiyan ako Gen San, I also visited some of the tribal leaders, ngayon naman kayo yung kasama ko.

    And this is a very special occasion because, hindi ko po alam kung alam ninyo but when my husband was still alive, the IP community had a very special place in his heart. Siya po yung nagpasa ng memorandum circular requiring mandatory IP representation in all councils.

    Ito po yung nakita niyang paraan para bigyan ng mas maraming boses yung ating mga katutubo, and rightfully so, kasi gaya po ng sinasabi ko kanina, yung heritage at culture niyo ay napakayaman. Hindi pwedeng mangyari yung nangyayari in the past na masyadong kayong namamarginalize. We all feel that you are not given the voice that you deserve in our society, and having your representation in all the local councils is one very big step para parati nang papakinggan yung inyong boses.

    But even during all those times that you were not given your place in society, you still found ways to rejoice in your heritage, to give thanks when fortune shines its light on your people. And let me assure you that over the next six years, habang po ako ay ang inyong pangalawang pangulo, I will always fight with you to defend the rights that are wholly yours.

    Alam niyo po naging politiko po ako noong 2013 lamang, noong namatay po yung asawa ko, saka lang po ako pumasok sa pulitika. Pero bago po ako naging politiko, napakatagal po akong alternative lawyer, human rights lawyer. Ang mga dinedepensahan ko po yung mga maliliit. Yung mga magsasaka, mga mangingisda, at isang sektor pong dinepensahan ko doon sa amin ay yung mga indigenous people sa amin. Doon po sa amin yung tribe ay tawag pong Agta.

    Maraming marami po akong mga klienteng Agta, fighting for their rights. Marami po sa kanila ay nae-ease out sa kanilang ancestral domain, marami pong mga karapatan na hindi narerespeto. Kaya nung ako po ay abugado pa lang, matagal na matagal ang aking pakikipaglaban para po sa mga Agta doon po sa Bicol.

    As I was telling you, the welfare of the indigenous peoples was very close to the heart of my husband. Ang alam ko po, some time in August 2007, my husband came over and visited then Governor Migz Dominguez, where they started the Quest Program.

    And when Jessie became Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, yun na po yung sinasabi ko na one of the things he did was to issue a circular, making sure that indigenous peoples have mandatory representation of the IP community in all the local councils.

    Pero hindi po tayo nakukuntento doon. We still feel that we are not given enough voice, we still feel that we are not given the rightful place we deserve in society, kaya patuloy po ang ating pakikipaglaban. We are fighting for a deeper level of participative governance for all of you, especially in the provinces like Saranggani. There is more progress when political leaders are empowered and empowering. So sa ating pong mga tribal chieftains at sa ating pong local government unit, sa pamumuno po governor Steve, maraming maraming salamat sa inyo sa patuloy ninyong pakikipaglaban para po sa ating mga katutubo.

    And to further improve this, we will urge, dati po kasi congressman po ako, at isa po sa pinapakipaglaban po natin ismagkaroon sana ng “empowerment fund,” iyong ating pong mga katutubo, so that we can build the governance capacities of indigenous peoples.

    This will help you in crafting and enforcing more effective, sustainable development plans for your ancestral domain. Marami pong sinasabi na hindi po sapat na tinutulungan lang tayo, pero mas kailangan natin tinutulungan tayo to improve ourselves, capacity building so that our capacity po to govern yung tribes po natin, naaayos kasi ito po yung malaking multiplier effect para sa ating mga kasamahan.

    At the same time, we should create a system where IP organizations can recommend indigenous candidates to the President, specifically for NCIP commissioners. Pinaguusapan po namin ito dati, marami po sa mga tribes na aking nabisita ay nirereklamo na hindi kami masyadong nabibigyan ng boses, kaya sabi po namin siguro lalong lalo na sa NCIP, kasi ito yung opisinang nagrerepresent sa atin, sana binibigyan tayo ng capacity na tayo yung magrerecommend ng ating mga commisioners. These are some of the plans we are exploring so that indigenous groups can have a bigger role in our drive for progress.

    The Office of the Vice-President seeks to be of help in your journey of self-agency and healing. Earlier this month, noong October 10 po, my office launched an Anti-Poverty Framework program and presented it to development partners and to some local government units. Our strategy to reduce poverty as the fruit of our labor of dialogue; it is the product of our consultations with poor communities and different organizations nationwide.

    And two of the components of what we call our Angat Buhay Anti-Poverty Framework are especially relevant to the interests of native peoples: our agenda for food security and nutrition and our goal of advancing rural development. Pakiramdam po natin na kailangan pang alagaan natin yung inyong ancestral domain, at bigyan kayo ng karapatan na siguruhin na malaki yung contribution natin sa food security para sa ating bansa, kasi this will propel rural development in the country side.

    On improving food security, we will work with the National Government—more specifically the departments of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Reform—so your communities can gain market access for your agricultural produce, with the government as your primary client.

    Kasi ngayon po, sa amin pong konsultasyon po sa mga tribo, marami naman sa inyo nagtatanim, pero kulang yung supporta sa inyong pagtatanim. Hindi lang sa inputs, pero yung access niyo din sa market. So we are looking at this as one of the ways where we can actively help the indigenous people community.

    It is also a model similar to what we started when I was Congresswoman of Camarines Sur. Doon po sa amin ni[inaudible] po namin yung aming IP communities na nagtatanim, para isa na sila sa nagsusupply sa aming feeding programs, yung mga feeding programs po ng DSWD. Para naman yung mga tinatanim niyo, sigurado nang may merkado. Paminsan po kasi yung tinatanim niyo, para lang sa pamilya. Wala tayong masyadong kinikita kaya patuloy pa ding naghihirap yung ating mga communities.

    We want to do the same for you. But initiatives like this must be complemented by programs for environmental protection, because the stewardship of natural resources is inherent in your culture and tradition.

    We also have to take in to account the effects of climate change, which have become more destructive. Kanina nga po palapag na po kami sa Gen San, sabi po namin, mabuti naman green na ulit yung kulay ng paligid, kasi nung pumunta po kami nung kampanya, brown na brown po yung paligid nung palapag na kami sa Gen San. Ngayon pong green na ulit, ibig sabihin nabubuhay na ulit yung aming mga tanim.

    And to this end, we want to equip you with the proper means to meet climate-related challenges. One course of action that we wholly support is the passage of the E-NIPAS bill, which should identify more areas in the country as environmentally protected.

    Meanwhile, we also want to support you in deepening your knowledge in environmental protection practices. We intend to do this in a way that carefully accounts your cultural sensitivities.

    But most urgent, of course, is giving you appropriate access to natural resources, kasi ito po yung reklamo sa atin ng ibang mga tribong kinausap natin, na kayo yung may pag-aari ng inyong lugar, pero kayo pa yung nadedeprive ng access sa inyong natural resources.

    We want to do this so that your communities can equitably share in the benefits with other communities and the local government. We also want to see you regain control of the resources that are already in ancestral domains, because this will give you more opportunities to grow.

    Ang alam po natin, yung ating development minsan ay iba yung pagtingin, tayo pong mga katutubo yung nawawalan tuloy ng papel sa development, and this should not happen.

    So as you know, the Office of the Vice President, kahit hindi kami implementing agency, we are trying to redefine our office into one that can greatly contribute to development that is felt by the last, the least, and the lost. Kaya ito po iyong aming pong pag-iikot, para bisitahin kayong mga galing sa malalayong lugar.

    It’s a way for us to listen to your issues, to listen to your complaints and do something about them. Kaya ngayon po, nagcecelebrate po tayo ng National Indigenous People’s Month. Sana po yung celebration na ito will not end with the national IP month, but will continue to be an activity that will further empower bawat isa sa atin, kasi mahalaga pong napapakinggan yung boses nating lahat. Pag hindi po napapakinggan yung boses natin, mahihirapan po kaming nasa gobyerno malaman kung ano yung inyong mga pangangailangan. Kaya sana po, from this day on, please regard our office, the Office of the Vice President, as an office that will continue to listen to whatever you aspire for.

    Kaya congratulations po sa inyong lahat, thank you very much to Governor Solon and the entire leadership of the province of Saranggani for this initiative. Magandang hapon po muli, happy IP month po sa ating lahat.

    Posted in Speeches on Oct 27, 2016