THE uplift of the living conditions of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) merits top priority in the Administration's National Shelter Program. The government started last year its first housing project for IPs. An initial 16 housing units were awarded on August 7, 2012, to Aeta families in the Nabuklod Upland Resettlement Project in Floridablanca, Pampanga. The project aims to build 350 housing units for IPs in Pampanga and, in the long term, resettle some 3,000 Nabuklod Aetas, who originally came from Old Nabuklod, Floridablanca, one of the communities affected by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991. Apart from Aetas in Pampanga, the government is finalizing a housing project for the Langilan-Manobo Tribe in Sitio Paiton, Dagohoy, Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
The provision of housing for IPs as well as other vulnerable sectors is a collaboration by key shelter agencies, including the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund, the Social Housing Finance Corporation, and the National Housing Authority.
There are over 14 million IPs in the Philippines, most of whom are in Mindanao. These marginalized people form organized communities, retaining a close link with their customs and traditions. The government plans housing communities for tribal groups nationwide, including Apayao, Isneg, and Tinggian in Cordillera; Aeta, Gaddang, and Ibanag in Cagayan Valley; Pinatubo and Baluga in Central Luzon; Hanunoo and Iraya in Mindoro; Batak and Tagbanua in Palawan; Ati and Sulod in Western Visayas; Ata, Badjao, and Bilaan in Mindoro; and Dulagan-Manobo and Aruman-Manobo in Mindanao.
The Philippine Constitution recognizes, respects, and protects the rights of IPs to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions. Republic Act 8371, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IFRA) of 1997, guarantees the rights of IPs to ancestral domain, self-governance and empowerment, social justice and human rights, education and cultural integrity. IFRA is modelled on the 2007 United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples' Rights.
We wish the officials of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, Chaired by Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer Atty. Antonio M. Bernardo, Pag-IBIG Fund President and Chief Executive Officer Atty. Darlene Marie B. Berberabe, Social Housing Finance Corporation President Maria Ana R. Oliveros, and National Housing Authority General Manager Atty. Chito M. Cruz, all the best and success in their efforts to empower the country's Indigenous Peoples. CONGRATULATIONS AND MABUHAY!