CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur-At least thirty Indigenous People (IP) leaders participated in the Regional Indigenous People Empowerment Summit (RIPES) last October 14-15 in Peñafrancia Resort, Barangay Carolina, Naga City.
The event was an initiative of Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB) in partnership with National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP) Regional Office V.
During the 2-day summit, participants who are mostly from the tribes of Manide and Agta in Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Albay and Sorsogon were given lectures about insurgency, importance of peace and order in community development, farming, entrepreneurship, agri-preneurship and education.
IPs were also reoriented about their four bundles of rights which includes the right to ancestral domain, right to self-governance and empowerment, right to cultural integrity and right to social justice and human rights.
RIPES coincided with the celebration of IPRA (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997) month.
For the past years, IPs became one of the most vulnerable sectors of society in terms of Communist Terrorist Group’s (CTG) infiltrations.
Being an Indigenous People Mandatory representative (IPMR), it paved the way for Elsa,
a Manide from Capalonga town in Camarines Norte province to be part of an eye-opening event.
According to her, she only finished grade 7 because her family cannot afford to send her to school whose only source of income is through “copra” or smoked coconut meat.
As a member of indigenous people (IP) community, Elsa knew the importance of education which she dreamed of giving her children.
She felt lucky to have been chosen as an IPMR or the tribe’s version of councilor.
IPMRs are actively involved in legislative matters and receive a monthly compensation.
No less than the NCIP Bicol Regional Director Lee Arroyo graced the closing program who underscored that the event is very significant in informing and educating the IPs about their entitlements and privileges.
“Ini po gabos simbag po ini duman sa apat nindong diretso. Bako lang an AFP, kami nagkaburunyog, nagkasararo, nagtatarabangan na may saro kaming papadumanan asin an samong thrust para sa improvement, sa ikakarahay kan mga tribo sa komunidad,” she added.
[This is in response to your four bundles of rights. Not only the AFP, we harmonize, unite and help each other towards one goal and our thrust is for the improvement, for the betterment of the tribes in the community.]
JTFB under MGEN FERNANDO T TRINIDAD AFP said that thru the summit, IPs were given the opportunity to learn about national security and made aware of the services of the government which are intended exclusively for them.
Furthermore, with the continuous efforts of the government to bring them the services they need especially right now that the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 is in full swing, JTFB believes that it will leave no room for communist terrorists’ ill motives.
It can be recalled that thru EO 70 or the Whole-Of-Nation Approach, the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) or Task Force Katuninongan asin Kauswagan was created.
It unifies all government agencies to plan and implement programs and projects for the communities and resolve insurgency.
Members of the CTG have been instilling in the minds of the people that the lack of government services can only be resolved through revolution which in reality, only promotes violence.
That is why the Army in Bicol intensifies its focused military operations to stop the CTG from spreading harm, conducting extortion activities and recruiting innocent civilians to join them in their useless cause.
Along with it is the unending call for armed guerillas to follow the footsteps of their former comrades who already surrendered to the government and are now enjoying a more peaceful life with their families and friends.
Right now, with the RTF-ELCAC, more government agencies can provide assistance to rebels who decided to return to the folds of the law.
They can also enroll in Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) which gives educational, livelihood and housing assistance so as firearm renumeration.