Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is great pleasure to be with you today on behalf of the President of the Philippines. Allow me to share with you his message on this occasion.
We have gathered here today to recognize the efforts of our journalists in positively relaying the stories of our countrymen who are indigenous peoples. I believe, however, that I am not remiss in saying that the true reason we are gathered here today is for our countrymen, the indigenous peoples, to hail the part they play in the story of the Philippines.
Tuloy-tuloy na po ang pag-unlad ng ating bansa. At kapag binalikan natin ang mga pangyayari noong nakaraang taon, talagang masasabi natin: marami na ang nagbago at patuloy na nagbabago sa Pilipinas. Sa pagtahak natin ng tuwid na daan tungo sa isang maunlad at progresibong bansa, kailangan po na kasabay natin ang sambayanang Pilipino, lalo na ang ating mga kababayan na, maaring dahil sa kanilang sitwasyon, ay hindi madaling nakakasabay sa pag-unlad ng bansa.
Itinataguyod po natin ang tinatawag na inclusive growth, kung saan walang maiiwan at mapag-iiwanan sa pagtahak na tuwid na landas. Kasama na rin po kayo doon, ang mga katutubong Pilipino.
The way towards inclusive growth and development is to ensure that our countrymen are able to overcome barriers that prevent them from taking part in nation-building activities and in taking stock of their lives. That, for example, they have access to employment opportunities that do not discriminate against them because of their ethnic origins; that respect for their rights both as indigenous peoples and as workers are not violated; and that we give them adequate venues for representation so that their interests are constantly attended to in policy-making.
We are continuing to strengthen policy, so that it truly works for the Filipino people. A technical working group has been created in DOLE to study the ratification of the ILO Convention 169 or the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, and engage in dialogues with institutions responsible for providing indigenous peoples with social security, health, education and training, to investigate if full compliance with the convention is possible if ratified. Part of the work includes the review of existing laws related to IPs, in coordination with other concerned agencies, particularly on the issue of ancestral domain as these are crucial to the country’s preparedness to ratify Convention 169.
Just last month, the Senate unanimously approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 2814 or the “Anti-Ethnic or Racial Profiling and Discrimination Act of 2011.” This states, among others, that it is unlawful for an employer or educational institution to discriminate against a person on the ground of race, ethnicity, or religious belief. This represents yet another step toward achieving true inclusiveness in the Philippines.
In Mindanao, the ILO in partnership with the NCIP and concerned local government units (LGUs), has an on-going program in the Caraga region called the “Indigenous Peoples Development Program (IPDP-Caraga), which aims to empower IPs in the area to make use of resources found in their ancestral domains, so as to generate income and employment opportunities in their communities. Today, for example, the Manobos in the municipality of Veruela, Agusan del Sur are learning about the vast income and employment potentials of naturally renewable sago palm trees growing in their ancestral domain which could provide excellent material for making high quality flour.
Patunay ito na hindi nakakalimutan ng gobyerno ang ating mga kapatid na katutubo sa pagbibigay ng mga benepisyo o serbisyo. Unang-una po diyan ang DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP) towards Community Enterprise Development, kung saan isa sa mga pangunahing benepisyaryo ay ang ating mga katutubo.
Sa pangunguna naman ng DOLE Region 11 Office, sinimulan noong 2010 ang Rural and Upland Barangays Benefitting in Employment in Rubber (RUBBER) Project kung saan ang mga katutubo din ang isa sa mga naging benepisyaryo sa pagpapalago ng industriya ng goma sa bansa. At sa Porac, Pampanga, nakipag-tulungan tayo sa LGU roon upang matulungan na maipagbili ang mga agrikulturang produkto ng mga katutubo.
In addition to all these, DOLE now has one IP desk in each of its 16 regional offices. These offices have started facilitate the access of IPs to the programs and services of the Department.
All of these efforts, undertaken in partnership with concerned stakeholders including the IPs themselves, signify our commitment to ensure equality, diversity and non-discrimination of our indigenous peoples in the Philippines. These have laid the foundation on which we can build our next efforts, and I believe that we will be able to achieve our shared goal, especially with partners like the media and the ILO present to help us strengthen the position of our indigenous peoples in society.
To the journalists gathered here today: allow me to congratulate you for this achievement. I hope that this represents not only a single success in your career, but also the beginning of a valuable advocacy to spur you on as you go about your professional and personal lives. I leave in your hands the task of finding out more good news and of weaving more stories, not only about our programs for IPs but also about the remarkable deeds and contributions of our indigenous Filipino brothers and sisters.
Through your inspiring stories, we all will be made more aware not only of the valuable contributions of our indigenous peoples to our rich cultural heritage, but more importantly for the socio-economic implications of firmly instituting interests of indigenous peoples in the mainstream of policy-making.
I also would like to thank Director Johnson and ILO for organizing this event, which recognizes not just our journalists but more importantly pays tribute to our indigenous peoples.
With that, again, I would like to convey my warmest greetings and congratulations to all of you. Thank you, and good evening.