I assured the indigenous peoples (IPs) that they will enjoy equal benefits from the country’s natural resources to ensure their economic development.
It is the intention of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that the IPs should be given priority in reforestation activities in the uplands, where they will be allowed not only to plant trees but also reap the benefits from what they have planted.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources will shoulder the construction of a P40-million building for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), also to be called “IP Center”, on a 5,000 square meter-lot owned by DENR in front of the Heart Center along East Avenue in Quezon City.
In a message during the celebration of the World’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day held at SEAMEO INNOTECH in Diliman, Quezon City,I stated that the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), which ensures the protection of the IPs’ rights, are now being implemented and enforced by the DENR.
Whether it be lands, forest and minerals, the intention of the law is to give the IPs priority rights over all these natural resources because our country cannot attain a complete progress unless the IPs also attain economic progress.
The distribution of an additional 1.5 million hectares of ancestral lands is now underway, bringing the total number of distributed IP lands to 3.5 million hectares during our administration .
The government’s massive reforestation program is awarding reforestation contracts to upland dwellers and IPs instead of foreign and big time contractors in an effort to provide assistance to IPs.
In the same way that the DENR is helping the IPs, he is also seeking help from them in protecting the environment.