Cotabato City – Members of indigenous communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) appeal to the Philippine government to make good of the implementation of Republic Act 8371 otherwise known as the “Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA)”.

Tribal leaders of the Teduray and Lambangian tribes and their followers gathered in a forum on October 19, 2007 to celebrate the Indigenous Peoples Month this October with the theme “Strengthening unity, protecting the land, sustaining life” at the Lumad Development Center, Inc. (LDCI) office in Tenorio, Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan.

The activity was organized by the LDCI in cooperation with the Office for Southern Cultural Communities (OSCC) and the Timuay Justice and Governance.

The group calls for a thorough implementation of the IPRA, which was passed and signed into law in October 1997. The law gives chance to all cultural minorities in the country to be heard and participate in the affairs of the national government.

It seeks to recognize, promote and protect the rights of the tribal peoples and communities which includes the rights to ancestral domain and lands; rights to self-governance and empowerment; social justice and human rights; and rights to cultural integrity.

The group has also formally adopted the recently approved United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples calling on the government to look into its salient provisions.

The UN declaration, which was formally adopted in September of this year, recognizes the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of indigenous peoples which derive from their political, economic and social structures including their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources.

Netherland’s Centre for Indigenous Peoples (NCIV) Officer for Asia, Gerard van Dorps, said the declaration was a product of more than twenty years of series of deliberate council meetings.

Van Dorps, who was guest of honor and resource speaker in the forum, expressed the willingness of his organization to deepen its involvement in protecting and advancing the welfare of indigenous communities in the country particularly the Teduray and Lambangian tribes in the provinces of Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan.

OSCC Executive Director Victoria Kanakan urged members of indigenous tribes to work together and unite in order to fully attain the collective rights of the indigenous peoples to self-determination. (bpi-armm)

Press Release
October 22, 2007