Sunday Sep, 19 2021 10:37:37 AM

Blaans, Army to cooperate on projects in Tupi, South Cotabato

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES NEWS • 18:45 PM Sun Jul 25, 2021
443
By: 
John M. Unson

KORONADAL CITY - Twelve ethnic Blaan community leaders have fused ranks to support the Philippine Army’s peace and development programs in their tribal enclaves in Tupi town.

Major Gen. Juvymax Uy of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said Sunday the Blaan leaders also planned to embark, along with the 5th Special Forces Battalion and the 601st Infantry Brigade, on forums meant to disseminate to the public the contents of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, or IPRA.

The IPRA law, also known as the Republic 8371, assures Philippine indigenous communities of rights to ancestral domain and autonomy in harnessing obtainable natural sources in tribal enclaves, subject to government regulations.

Uy, also commander of the anti-terror Task Force Central, said the 12 Blaan leaders from across Tupi town in South Cotabato, the officials of the 5th SF Battalion and Brig. Gen. Roy Galido of the 601st Infantry Brigade met last July 20 and agreed to cooperate on peace and socio-economic programs for their communities.

The dialogue, held at the headquarters of the 5th SF Battalion in Barangay Kablon in Tupi, was jointly facilitated by Lt. Col. Zandro Alvez and Galido, who is commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade.

“They reached a consensus to work together in maintaining peace and order in their domains through community-building projects that can improve the productivity of Blaans and secure them from lawless groups and criminal gangs,” Uy said.

Two Blaans, Leopoldo Cabca, a government-accredited Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative, and Dan Alim also attended the dialogue, where participants talked about solutions to underdevelopment and security woes besetting their ancestral lands.

Both Blaan community representatives insinuated that there is also a need for the police and the military to organize community volunteer groups to help protect IP villages from wanton intrusions by rebel forces trying to recruit villagers.

Galido had told the Blaan leaders present in the dialogue that all joint IP-Army projects in Tupi shall be implemented along with their municipal and provincial governments.

“We shall have community-empowerment projects that are far from being military in character,” Galido said.

Blaans in the adjoining South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces, both under Administrative Region 12, have long been ranting about abuses by the New People’s Army intruding into their upland tribal villages to collect “protection money” and food.

The first termer governor of South Cotabato, Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr., is popular for his being close to the indigenous communities and Moro residents in the province.

Alim, Cabca and their companions from different highland areas in Tupi also assured to help push the peacekeeping missions of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police in their barangays.

“We are thankful to the IP leaders in Tupi for committing support to our peace and community-building programs in Tupi,” Uy said.

Photo: The dialogue among Blaan leaders and Army officials in Tupi, South Cotabato delved on community concerns. (John Unson) 

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