An initiative of International Alert (IA), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and the Mindanao Business Council (MinBC), the desk will have members from the three organizations, officials of local government units, and representatives of IPs. The desk will also feature a database on conflict information and ancestral domains, besides resource maps and development plans on ancestral domains.
The group wants the IP Desk to be both about wealth creation alongside the protection and promotion of the rights of IPs, IA Deputy Country Manager Nikki Philline C. de la Rosa said.
â€œThe IP Desk is the crystallization of the desire to institutionalize the relationship between government, business and the IP communities,â€ said IA Country Manager Francisco J. Lara, Jr.
On Tuesday, Mr. Lara from IA, NCIP Chairperson Leonor O. Quintayo, and MinBC Chairman Vicente T. Lao also ceremonially signed a memorandum of cooperation â€œagreeing to collaborate and support the establishment of an IP Desk in MinBC.â€ The original signing was â€œlast month,â€ Ms. de la Rosa said on the sidelines of the event.
A technical working group from the parties will finalize the IP Deskâ€™s terms of reference including â€œroles, responsibilities and implementing guidelines.â€
For his part, MinBC Executive Director Rolando A. Torres said that current business challenges â€œdynamics in frameworks, access to information and security.â€
Besides pointing out â€œinconsistencies in local and national policies and political boundary conflicts in ancestral lands,â€ there are instances where â€œcommunities are misrepresented.â€ There is also a â€œlack of information on the location of investments,â€ Mr. Torres said.
There is a â€œneed of education and information on the traditions and practices of indigenous communities,â€ said Mr. Torres.
Mr. Torres acknowledged that investors need to protect their investments, employees and facilities but said that there are instances where there are â€œsemblances of creating private armies.â€
â€œAll concerns would lead to the most important issue faced by investors… the challenge on how to regain the trust of the communities,â€ said Mr. Torres.
According to Mr. Torres, IPs have been subject to â€œunfriendly policies before of the government.â€ Also, â€œprevious investors have been â€œresorting to payoffs to continue businessâ€ and some have gone around the process of securing FPIC.â€
There are also â€œconcerns on harming the environmentâ€ by investors entering IP areas and the â€œcases of human rights violationsâ€ prevalent during the â€™70s and early â€™80s are still remembered by IPs, said Mr. Torres.
In 17 years, the NCIP has granted 180 certificates of ancestral domain which translates to 4.7 hectares of land, with 92 certificates granted in Mindanao, translating to 2.2 hectares of land. — E. E. EscaÃ±o