Friday Oct, 30 2020 01:13:33 PM

Richest helping the poorest: "Adopt Tribal Family" strategy

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES NEWS • 20:45 PM Fri Sep 25, 2020
MinDA Sec. Emmanuel "Manny" Piñol
(Photos showing me with Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Ramon S. Ang and Manny V. Pangilinan were taken when I was Secretary of Agriculture. Photos of Sabin Aboitiz and Enrique Razon were downloaded from public websites.)

"To care for the 'Lost Tribe'!"

Five of the country's richest men will be invited to adopt the 140 to 150 families of the Ata-Manobo tribe who were never reached by government as they lived deep in the jungles in the tri-boundaries of Davao del Norte, Bukidnon and Agusan del Sur since they were born.

I have personally identified Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Ramon S. Ang, Manuel V. Pangilinan, Enrique Razon and Sabin Aboitiz as the prospective benefactors for the "Adopt-a-Tribal Family" program, a pioneering program initiated by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) to help the marginalized and neglected tribal families living in the mountains of Mindanao.

As Secretary of Agriculture, I had the opportunity of meeting the five men who came across to me as benevolent individuals who would only be too willing to help if given an opportunity and a worthy cause.

In the case of Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, known as JAZA, he actually visited me in the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture to pledge support for any program that I would undertake.

In the three years that I was DA Secretary, I never thought of reaching out to him after that visit until I was brought to the mountains of Kapalong in Davao del Norte on Sept. 11 where I met members of a tribe who lived in isolation since they were born in the jungles.

Only able-bodied men were able to reach the population centers in Patil, Kapalong and San Fernando Bukidnon to sell fiber from Abaca which grew wild in their settlement and buy their basic needs like salt, sugar, tobacco and rice.

To do that, they had to walk for two days in trails in the jungle carrying bundles of fiber on their backs weighing between 15 to 30 kilos.

Called as the "Lost Tribe" of Sitio Tapayanon. Kapalong, Davao del Norte, they were controlled by the New People's Army for over four years until a Long Range Patrol Team of the Philippine Army discovered the village in February 2019.

Before the soldiers came, the village had no school and the army troopers became the first teachers. They reported that children and young adults who attended the informal class learned fast.

Today, three teachers, also members of the Ata-Manobo tribe, are in the village to conduct informal class in makeshift school buildings.

Meeting the male members of the tribe in nearby Sitio Mondol, about six hours by foot from Sitio Tapayanon two weeks ago jolted me.

I felt so sad that in this age and time, when other Filipinos complain of damaged concrete roads, there are still marginalized and poor tribal people who had to walk for three days to reach the market to sell their produce and who live in houses made out of barks of trees.

This prompted me to craft the program called "Adopt-a-Tribal Family" Program which will involve rich families or corporations who will support the families with farm tools and livelihood projects.

In partnership with the provincial government of Davao del Norte, whose Governor, Edwin Jubahib, has pledged to build houses worth P80,000 each, the benefactors will be provided a profile of each of the 150 families.

They will be asked to provide P50,000 worth of livelihood interventions for each family and sponsor the children's education.

MinDA has also involved TESDA, DSWD and NCIP in the program.

This program could be implemented by government agencies but I decided to involve the five "oligarchs" because it would be a symbol that many of the richest families are willing to reach out to the poorest and marginalized Filipinos, if only given a chance.

This program which serve as the template of future interventions which MinDA will design for the disadvantaged tribal communities in Mindanao.

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