As a former public official, and I must say as an individual, one of my favorite marginalized groups that I always wanted to help is the Indigenous People’s sector. Why? Because I myself belong to an ethnic group, the Cuyonon.
When we hear Indigenous People (IPs), we immediately associate it with Batak, Tagbanuas or Pala’wans. It is not wrong though, because those groups are the least exposed in terms of modernization in our province.
But as per National Commission on Indigenous People or NCIP, the government is recognizing nine (9) ethnic groups in Palawan: Batak, Pala’wan, Tagbanua Central, Tagbanua Tandulanen, Tagbanua Calamianen, Cagayanen, Agutaynen, Cuyonon, and Molbog. All these groups have equal rights to access government services. For example, Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) for Sangguniang Bayan may come from any of these groups depending on the internal agreement among tribal groups.
Equality may have relative meaning, but at least, since the birth of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (‘PRA Law), rights of IPS were gradually noticed and eventually acknowledged in the country. In my personal viewpoint, their rights are almost absolute to their Ancestral Domain. If it is proven that a certain group resides in a particular area since time immemorial, the State recognizes their absolute right over that area, as if they are part of the environment.
I like the thoughts that most of the 23 towns of the province have already its IPMR. That means their voice can already be heard.
Holding true to its commitment of support and respect for the culture of ethnic tribes, Coral Bay Nickel Corporation always join in the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Month celebration usually being held during the month of October.
CBNC recognizes the rights of the IPs. I need not enumerate nor to explain much, but all of our projects/programs specifically for IPS would speak for itself.
My only wish is that, no matter how far this so-called equality will go, distinct cultures of all ethnic groups in Palawan will be preserved.