Federal PH: Alvarez wants separate states for indigenous peoples

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez promised leaders of indigenous peoples (IPs) he would push for a “separate states” for them in the Cordilleras and Mindanao, as he called on them to support the shift to a federal system of government.

Alvarez, who is also secretary general of the ruling PDP-Laban, said these states need not 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.”

Alvarez made the statement on Wednesday. February 7, during a roundtable discussion with indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) and IPs on how a possible shift to federalism would impact their communities.

According to a release from the House, Alvarez said IPs and ICCs would be enabled to “govern according to their customs and laws.”

Alvarez, who in past had identified himself as a member of the Manobo tribe, criticized how the executive – through agencies such as the environment and natural resources department – would “recklessly” issue mining and logging permits for companies to operate in the ancestral domains of IPs.

Ironically, President Rodrigo Duterte recently said he wants IPs in Mindanao to move out of their ancestral domain and invite investors to use the land. Malacañang later clarified that the President would first consult with the groups about the plan and that they may refuse it.

The House roundtable, hosted by the committee on indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples, included IP leaders with the ranks of datu from Mindanao, Cordillera IPs represented by Kalinga Representative Allen Jesse Mangaoang, resource persons from the academe, and framers of the 1987 Constitution.

Both chambers of Congress are holding hearings on Charter change proposals, part of a push to shift from a unitary to federal form of government. – Rappler.com