DSWD holds dialogue with delegates of 3,500-strong Lakabayan 2016; Sec. Taguiwalo aims to get feedback from IPs regarding government services and projects

MANILA, PHILIPPINES, OCT. 19 — Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo reaffirmed her support to the country’s national minority groups and defenders of Indigenous Peoples’ (IPs) rights as they secure the collective rights of Lumad, Moros, and other indigenous peoples.

“For hundreds of years, our indigenous peoples struggled to safeguard and foster their ancestral lands and resources which serve as the foundation of their culture, livelihood, traditional knowledge, and identity. However, because of unjust neoliberal policies, the lives of the present and future generation of our IP brothers and sisters are endangered,” said Sec. Taguiwalo.

“Aside from the plundering of their ancestral domains, many of them are denied of their basic civil, socio-political, economic, and cultural rights,” she added.

This October 20, the Department will hold a dialogue with the country’s national minority groups at the Lakbayan 2016 in the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman campus to address their issues and concerns, and to discuss possible interventions that the present government can provide to them, such as access to basic social services.

Lakbayan 2016 is the fifth nationwide march to Manila is held annually to campaign against militarization, development aggression, and U.S. imperialist dominance in the Philippines. It consists of 3,500 delegates from Southern Tagalog, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley, Panay, Central Visayas, and Mindanao – Moros from the tribes of Maguindanao, Maranaw, Tausug, Iranon, Kagan, Sama, and Sangir; the Lumads of Mindanao from the tribes of Bagobo, Manobo, Higaonon, B’laan, Manobo-Dulagan, Talaindig, Subanen, Mandaya, Mansaka, Mamanwa, Tiboli, and Tagakaolo-Bagobo. Contingents from Luzon are the Cordilleran tribes of Kankaney, Ibaloi, Bontoc, Isneg, Kalinga, Ifugao, Tinggian, Iyapayao, Bugkalot, Aggay, Malaweg and Bagyo. Mangyan, Dumagat, Palaw’an of Southern Luzon, and Aytas and Dumagat of Central Luzon.

“Our aim is to work together with our national minorities. We hope to bring the services and the programs of the Department closer to them, so we can provide them with compassionate service and be their partners for change,” continued Sec. Taguiwalo.

Aside from discussion of available DSWD programs and services for the Lakbayanis, Moros and IP leaders are expected to provide an orientation of their situation on the ground to DSWD officials and employees.

“We want to know their views and hear their reports regarding the situation in their communities when it comes to the impact of development projects and the mining and logging operations of local and foreign firms. As representatives of government, it’s important to get feedback from the ground – from the very people in the areas where the development projects and business operations are being conducted and to see how these are affecting their lives and welfare,” she said.

“We also want to know if the services of the government reach them, and what prevents them accessing these services if they are unable to do so. We want to know how we can improve our systems and processes so we can reach out to IPs in their far-flung communities,” she added.

Sec. Taguiwalo also called for public support for the Lakbayan delegates such as giving donations in the form of medicine, clothing, food, clean water, personal hygiene items, and school supplies. Interested donors may visit the Lakbayan camp at the UP Diliman campus near the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Lastly, the Secretary said, “Amidst the worsening inequality and social injustice that our indigenous peoples are experiencing, we, the Filipino people, stand by them. The Department is here to support their rights and to protect them from unjust policies, from discrimination, and from other forms of oppression that deprive them of their freedom and lives.” (Mindanao Post / DSWD)

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