The Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) chaired by Agusan del Norte Governor Maria Angelica Rosedell Amante-Matba in partnership with the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) spearheaded the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) Summit on March 25 to 26, 2018 at Oazis Hotel, Butuan City. The IP Summit dubbed “Lumadnong Panaglambigitay Alang sa Kalinaw og Kalambuan sa Caraga” was a region-wide convergence among Caraga stakeholders aimed at addressing peace and development issues and challenges confronting IPs.

Around 1,000 participants attended the Summit. More than 400 of these participants were IP members and leaders. Among the dignitaries were Chairperson Leonor Oralde-Quintayo of NCIP and Secretary Jesus Dureza of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP). Local Chief Executives and heads of the different Regional Line Agencies were also present to respond to issues raised during the Summit.

Several IP issues and concerns were tackled and grouped into ten (10) thematic areas, namely: 1) IPs Education; 2) Local Governance Concerns; 3) Welfare, Skills, and Livelihood; 4) Economic Concerns; 5) Issues on Land and Ancestral Domain; 6) Peace and Security; 7) IP Organization (IPO) Registration; 8) Health Services; 9) Infrastructure; and 10) Autonomy. Actions taken in response to issues raised were also presented.

Questions regarding issuance of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) also emerged. A participant asked as to why there was only one (1) CADT awarded in the province of Surigao del Sur.

NCIP was requested to fast track the release of CADTs. The NCIP clarified that there are already 21 approved CADTs in the region, of which three (3) are already registered with the Land Registration Authority (LRA) and the remaining 18 have yet to be registered. Out of the three (3) registered CADTs, only one (1) CADT (No. R13-LAN-1102-002) was awarded to the province of Surigao del Sur covering a total area of 11,811.6247 hectares and located in portions of Tandag City and the municipalities of Lanuza, San Miguel, and Tago all in Surigao del Sur.

NCIP still needs to secure the Certificates of Non-Overlap from DENR and DAR for the 18 unregistered CADTs. Research and segregation are required, thus the NCIP requested OPAPP for budget support in 2019 to fund said activities.

The IPs also raised concerns on the need for a learning center. The Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) was requested to consider the establishment of a Learning Center in Jabonga, Agusan del Norte to cater to IPs or Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) in the adjacent municipalities of Kitcharao and Santiago. The LGU of Jabonga expressed willingness to donate a lot for the TESDA Learning Center while TESDA committed to consider the said request. For the meantime, TESDA will conduct Mobile Trainings in the said areas. The Tribal Groups of said municipalities are requested to provide the list of the trainees.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was also requested to consider the lifting of Executive Order No. 23 “Declaring a Moratorium on the Cutting and Harvesting of Timber in the Natural and Residual Forests and Creating the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force.” IP communities lamented that said EO has been disadvantageous to legitimate forest agreement holders that adopt and practice sustainable forest management approaches.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) informed the IPs that the Regional Development Council (RDC) through the Regional Land Use Committee (RLUC) is also looking into the possibility of requesting DENR to lift EO No. 23. This is because the Region’s production forests have long been unproductive as a result of the stringent policy of the government. The number of operating Wood Processing Plants (WPPs) in the region declined from 119 in 2010 to only 27 WPP in 2017. The RDC has recommended measures to help expedite the processing of WPPs permits and accelerate the growth of the wood industry in the region.

The IPs also requested for a housing program. The National Housing Authority (NHA) was requested to consider an expansion of their housing program for the IPs/ICCs in Jabonga and Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. NEDA commits to inform NHA about the said concern through the RDC-Social Development Committee (SDC) since it was not represented during the event.

Progress on the actions taken addressing the issues and concerns discussed during the IP Summit was agreed to be regularly updated through the Committee on Indigenous Peoples’ Concerns of the RDC.

Shiela M. Bermoy, NEDA-Caraga