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Senate panel OKs P1.1-B NCIP budget

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian took to task the NCIP for failing to do anything to alleviate poverty among indigenous peoples (IP) even though it has been in existence for 20 years. Sherwin Gatchalian/Released

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate committee on finance has approved the P1.1-billion proposed budget for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for 2018 after the agency received only P1,000 from the House of Representatives.

Senators agreed to restore the NCIP’s original budget for 2018 subject to certain conditions during a hearing on Thursday night.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian took to task the NCIP for failing to do anything to alleviate poverty among indigenous peoples (IP) even though it has been in existence for 20 years.

If approved by the Senate plenary, the Senate version will be reconciled with the House version at the bicameral conference committee.

NCIP chair Leonor Oralde-Quintayo admitted that the incidence of poverty in the country remains high among the IPs. 

Quintayo said there are an estimated 14 million IPs around the country.

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“When I heard that your budget was cut, the first thing that came to my mind was that nothing seems to be happening. It’s 20 years already. We have to come up with a strategy,” Gatchalian said.

“It cannot be business as usual everyday. We cannot just come in to the office day in and day out and do nothing. We have to change something. We have to reform your program in order to address the problems of IPs in the communities,” he added.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said there is a need to reengineer the NCIP’s programs so that the IPs could benefit from government funds, including the conditional cash transfer program being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Zubiri said that while the NCIP has been successful in recovering land for the IPs, it failed to ensure that these lands are properly utilized.

Sen. Loren Legarda, who chairs the committee on finance, said she has received complaints about the IPs being used to block projects or extort money from legitimate businessmen.

“IPs should have integrity and value and not be used by syndicates that use the IPs to block projects, to extort. The people at the NCIP allegedly use IPs to block projects for extortion. We will not allow that,” she said.

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