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PIA Press Release

NCIP says IPRA-based autonomy is possible

by SC Aro

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet (29 October) -- The National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) said the Cordilllera Administrative region could attain autonomy through the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).

NCIP Regional Director Amador Batay-an said fiscal autonomy in particular can be attained through the provisions of the IPRA where the right to the utilization of natural resources within the area belongs to the Indigenous Peoples (IPs). He added this is an avenue for the priority right of IPs in the utilization and exploitation of resources.

Batay-an said this is based on Section 57 of IPRA in relation to natural resources within ancestral domains which states that, "the Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs)/IPs shall have priority rights in the harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation of any natural resources within the ancestral domains."

Batay-an cited the partnership of Balatoc Mining Corporation together with residents of Pasil, Kalinga who applied for mineral exploration in Batong Buhay mines.

The group is negotiating with Phil Asia Trans as partner corporation, a company engaged in mining before, according to Batay-an. A Memorandum of Agreement was forged between the Balatoc Mining Corporation and Phil Asia Trans.

The NCIP already issued the endorsement in relation to section 57. Batay-an said should this be successful this could be replicated in other areas.

However, NCIP is looking into the rights of the IP community so that they will not be shortchanged. The outside corporations might use these groups as fronts and dummies and be taken advantage of.

In the priority rights exploitation, there is no need for the application of a Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). It would lessen the payment of taxes and there would be sharing of benefits over and above those mandated according to Batay-an.

Political autonomy can also be attained under the IPRA. He cited NCIP's role which determines projects and programs to be introduced to the community. (PIA-Benguet) [top]

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