Tribal leaders hail NHA plan to build houses for IPs, ex-rebels

MANILA Tribal leaders on Monday expressed support to the National Housing Authority's plan to download PHP60 million to the provincial government of Davao del Norte for the construction of a housing project for indigenous peoples (IP) communities and former rebels.

Nagpapasalamat po kami sa ganyang tulong dahil po isa yun sa mga rason sa mga isyu na bakit nagrerebelde yung mga tribo yung kakulangan ng pansin mula sa gobyerno dati (We are thankful for the help because the lack of action from the government before has been one of the issues why tribal communities rebel), Datu Awing Apuga said in an interview.

Apuga, a former child warrior of the New People's Army, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, said development projects have not been able to penetrate into the countryside because communist insurgents are blocking them.

Importante po yung ganitong housing project doon sa amin, dahil wala pa talagang mga project galing sa gobyerno dahil hindi papayag ang mga NPA na pumasok ang mga project. Ang project na ito ay makakatulong para sa mga taong hindi na magpapagamit sa mga kabilang grupo (This housing project is important because there were no projects entering our communities because members of the NPA would not allow them. This project would greatly help people who decided to refuse the other camp's narratives), he added.

Datu Nestor Apas, chief of Langilan Manobo tribe of Davao del Norte, said the project is crucial especially for tribe members who went back to the folds of law after they were deceived by members of the NPA.

Ngayong binigyan na ng gobyerno ng paraan lalo itong housing, lalong gaganda ang mukha natin sa community. Sana tuloy-tuloy na ito.(Now that the government is doing this through this housing project, our communities will become more beautiful. I hope this continues), he said.

Apas, however, called on authorities to exercise the principle of Free and Prior Informed Consent by sitting down with tribal chieftains and working hand in hand in the project.

Kahit galing sa gobyerno yan, magkaron ng pag-uusap. At pinu-push po natin yung free and prior informed consent. Kasi baka ang project mapunta sa kalaban ng gobyerno (Even if it came from the government, there should be dialogues. We are pushing for the free and prior informed consent because the project might go to the enemy of the state), he said.

Apas also called on members of IP communities in the province to be vigilant against corrupt activities.

Dapat bantayan din natin, ayaw natin na baka may mag-corrupt sa budget. Ayaw natin yung ganyan. Baka mapunta yung pera doon sa hindi karapat-dapat (We should also be on guard, we don't want the corruption in the budget. We don't want that the money is spent to those undeserving people), he said.

More projects for IPs

Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib said of the PHP60-million budget, PHP20 million was already downloaded to the province while the remaining PHP40 million will be downloaded anytime this week.

The project would cater to the residents of barangays Sto. NiAo, Dagohoy, and Palma Gil in Talaingod.

The provincial government also recently announced to build a road project not later than September this year to provide better services in remote tribal villages.

The planned 20-kilometer road project will connect three IP communities in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong town, to the rest of the province.

Apuga and Apas were among the eight tribal leaders who went to the United States for a speaking tour aimed at rallying the international community against the CPP-NPA, a terrorist-listed organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

During their US tour, they called on the Filipino community to be vigilant in providing support to groups asking for financial assistance, saying these might be channeled to groups affiliated with the communist armed movement.

The tribal leaders also lodged a formal complaint before the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) Secretariat, urging them to launch an investigation into the attacks committed by the CPP-NPA.

A senior official of the US State Department also committed to look into the tribal leaders' claims of abuses and attacks by the rebel group. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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