Press Release
September 21, 2015

Senate establishes Resource Centers for Indigenous Peoples

The Senate approved on third and final reading a bill establishing resource centers across the country that would enhance the delivery of essential services to indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) and indigenous peoples (IPs).

Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities and sponsor of Senate Bill 2209, said that the bill addresses the need to improve the delivery and accessibility of basic, social, technical and legal services to 12 to 15 million IPs present in 48 provinces and 13 cities nationwide.

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said the measure was "a necessary upgrade to existing government measures and policies aimed at uplifting the lives of our indigenous peoplse, who remain among the nation's poorest and most marginalized."

According to Legarda, SBN 2209 will pave the way for Resource Centers to be established in all ICCs/IP domains which are "ethnographically located, gender and rights based, as determined by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)."

The centers shall be within State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in strategic places in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Legarda said that the centers shall have three main areas of operation, namely Statistical Service Area, Human Development Index Service Area and Domains Management Service Area, to be managed by a coordinator designated by the SUC.

"These centers shall help address problems of IPs and provide essential services such as employment, livelihood, enterprises, health services, scholarship and trainings," Legarda explained.

Apart from bringing IPs closer to services offered by the government, Legarda said that the Resource Centers are also tasked to ensure the protection of the IP's rights on their customs, traditions, values and beliefs.

The IP Resource Center shall serve as a venue to promote participatory programs and projects for IPS, to effectively deliver their responsibilities under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), and to ensure the implementation of their respective Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection plans," Legarda said.

Legarda had expressed in her sponsorship speech that ICCs continue to face long-standing challenges including availability of basic services, reported human rights violations, displacement from ancestral domain and destruction of natural environment and cultural values.

She also noted that basic services for IPs remain wanting in most geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs).

"It is for these reasons that we continue to fight for policies and programs that would further give our IPs the respect, recognition and opportunities due them," Legarda said.

Senators Cynthia Villar, Pia Cayetano and Sonny Angara were made co sponsors of the bill. (OLIVIA CAUNAN)

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