A group of indigenous people who belong to the Ata Negritos Tribe in Negros Oriental sought the assistance of Gov. Roel Degamo on the full implementation of Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.
The law mandates the rights of indigenous cultural people and communities to be given a fair representation in the lawmaking body like the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the group said.
Tribe spokesperson Oto-an Reynante Cabanag said they sought the assistance of Degamo so that their tribe will be properly and formally represented to protect the welfare of the remaining population of indigenous people in the province.
He said the law mandates that they have the right to have a representation in the SP, who will bring the voice of the Ata Negritos Tribe.
Cabanag said they have an estimated population of 260,000 all over the province belonging to different tribal groups. The tribes can be found in the mountain barangays of Basay town in the south, Mabinay town, Pamplona, Bais City, Guihulngan and other areas in the northern part of Oriental Negros.
They said they are more interested in a representation at the SP because they want to save the old practices, cultures and traditions of the IPs.
He admitted that they have slowly lost their tradition like the wearing of “bahag” or g-string that is the traditional costume of the IPs. At present, only their chieftain wears the “bahag”, he added.
Cabanag added the availability of cheap garment sold in ukay-ukay and donations from non-government organizations contributed in influencing the younger generation of IPs not to wear g-strings.
Degamo promised to help the Ata Negritos Tribe to gain a representation in the SP, but said he will ask the Provincial Attorney’s Office to carefully study the law and the obligations of the provincial government.
He will also ask the SP on the proposed IP representation.
Degamo said an approval from the SP will mandate the provincial government to allocate budget for the salary and operational expenses of the chosen representative from the indigenous people.
The Ata Negristos Tribe was presented to Degamo through the Oriental Negros Children’s Advocacy Network and the 302nd Brigade of the Philippine Army.*MA
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