Bill amending IPRA to have oversight function

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    THE HOUSE committee on national cultural communities will fast-track the passage of a bill amending the Indigenous People’s Right Act (IPRA) to include a Congressional oversight function that will ensure proper implementation of the measure.

    House Bill (HB) 4563, filed by the panel’s chairman Rep. Teddy B. Baguilat (Ifugao), seeks to create a Joint Oversight Congressional Committee to monitor the implementation of the law. The committee shall be composed of five senators and five congressmen. Mr. Baguilat said the IPRA “has not achieved its objective to alleviate the welfare of the indigenous peoples in the country.” He added that “scarce natural resources located in lands owned by our indigenous people by virtue of birthright and by law are being exploited by private individuals and companies without any agreement with their owners,” he added in a statement.

    The bill provides that the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be ex-officio members and the chairmen of the Senate Committee of Cultural Communities and the House Committee on National Cultural Communities will co-chair the joint oversight panel. Likewise, the Senate President and the Speaker shall appoint the respective members of the committee. The oversight panel shall also have the power to implement policy changes, review the decisions as well as recommend disciplinary action on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, which is supposed to be the first and last line of defense acting in behalf of the indigenous peoples in the country.

    IP groups are also calling for a review of the IPRA, particularly on the provision that requires mining companies to seek prior consent of IPs in the area. Contrary to the intent of the law, Santos M. Mero, secretary-general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, said the free and prior informed consent of the IPs, which is a requisite before mining companies are granted permit, has been used to displace IPs from their lands.

    Under the laws, tribal communities are only represented by their leaders. “Our proposal is to get the full participation of the tribe and not just the leaders,” he said during an earlier IP conference at the House. There were instances, Mr. Mero said, when this provision was abused. Mining companies, who fund the surveys, sometimes plant fake tribe leaders and present them as legitimate landowners. — Noemi M. Gonzales

    Web source: http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Nation&title=Bill-amending-IPRA-to-have-oversight-function&id=47088