Alvarez wants separate state for indigenous peoples

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House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday said he wants a separate state for indigenous peoples or IPs in the Cordilleras and Mindanao under the new federal setup, in which they would be able to govern themselves according to their own customs.

Alvarez, who said last year he belonged to the Manobo tribe, proposed that the federal government put in place a system recognizing the IPs’ territories as a separate state in the new government.

The federal government, he said, “preserve their different cultures and let them have independence in governing themselves and the management of their own natural resources.”

Moreover, Alvarez said the territories of the ICCs should not necessarily be contiguous because these tribes had their varied customs and traditions that had already been there since time immemorial, or prior to the arrival of foreign colonizers.

“Therefore, their heritage should be respected and adhered to under a federal government,” said Alvarez.

The Speaker criticized the current system wherein the DENR was recklessly issuing mining and logging permits to companies in areas considered as ancestral domain of the IPs. “This is a violation and total disrespect of the indigenous communities,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez maintained that this practice should be totally removed from the new Constitution and all issuances should be revoked.

The Speaker shared his thoughts during a roundtable discussion on the implications of federalism to the ICCs and IPs. The discussion was organized by the House committee on indigenous peoples chaired by North Cotabato second-district Rep. Nancy Catamco.

The discussion was attended by several IPs with the ranks of Datus from Mindanao; IPs from the Cordilleras represented by Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse Mangaoang; and resource persons from the academe and former members of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, headed by former Rep. Gregorio Andolana.