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The Sarangani Indigenous Peoples Comprehensive Welfare and Development Code or “Sar IP Code of 2019” was the highlight of Fulung Fredo Basino’s career when he served as the first Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Sarangani Province from November 2015 to November 2018. The 40-page IP Code complements the provisions of the Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous People Rights Act (IPRA).
“I did not want ‘piecemeal’ legislation. I wanted a comprehensive development plan for IPs,” Fulung Fredo said. “The Sarangani IP Code was conceptualized out of the realization that the IPRA Law must be properly implemented at the local level where LGUs should have a strong commitment to the law’s application.”
Sarangani is the first LGU in the country to pass this kind of legislation. It was co-authored by Vice Governor Elmer De Peralta and sponsored by the members of the 9th Sangguniang Panlalawigan. There were some sectors who have doubted the passage of this law, but Fulung Fredo was determined to push it through.
“Sarangani has a high population of IPs and this fact entails a high poverty rate. If you would analyze it in a geographical context, most of them live in far-flung areas and have no access to basic social services,” Fulung Fredo explained.
According to the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), Sarangani belongs to the top 10 poorest provinces in the Philippines. In recent years, the Provincial Government of Sarangani has implemented different programs to lessen the poverty incidence in the province.
“Sarangani IP Code serves as a grand strategy for poverty alleviation. If we want to lower the poverty incidence in Sarangani, we should focus on IP development,” Fulung Fredo added.
The IP code also defines the benefits and the protection of the IPs in Sarangani.
“In the past years, development projects in Sarangani focused on the coastal areas while the upland areas were neglected. Recently, there are upland developments such as infrastructure projects in Barangay Kinam in Malapatan and Barangay Nomoh in Maasim.
The 9th Sangguniang Panlalawigan members and Gov. Steve C. Solon supports this common vision for the IPs. “The good thing is that the Governor and SP members supported this policy,” Fulung Fredo remarked.
“You really need a good support system. You need to build a coalition. It is also important to develop strong emotional intelligence. There are times you would feel highs and then lows during the process of making policy. Sometimes you get frustrated but you should stick to your vision and commitment to serve the public,” Fulung Fredo said. “The Sarangani IP Code is a social movement. It serves as a common development agendum—a common vision for all.”
The Sarangani IP Code went through 18 workshops, 10 writeshops, and 7 public hearings. It is guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the Philippine Constitution; the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or IPRA Law (RA 8371); the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (RA 6657); Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (RA 7942); the Local Government Code (RA 7160); and the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issuances. The legislators have also conducted multi-sectoral consultations.
The Sarangani IP Code has 15 Articles or provisions that includes – I. Title, Scope and Coverage; II. Declaration of Principles and Legal Basis; III. Purpose, Goals and Objectives; IV. Definition of Terms; V. Rights and Privileges of Indigenous Peoples; VI. Indigenous Peoples Governance; VII. Ancestral Domains, Environment and Natural Resources; VIII. Education System; IX. Cultural Heritage; X. Indigenous Peoples Health Services; XI. Social Welfare and Social Protection; XII. Justice System; XIII. Indigenous Peoples Welfare and Development Division; XIV. Anti-Discrimination Acts; XV. Funding Scheme.
“People are hopeful when we consulted them about this IP Code. They were expecting a lot from this code,” Fulung Fredo added.
“The Sarangani IP Code is like a business plan. You need to have good leadership and a communication strategy,” Fulung Fredo said.
The Sarangani IP Code was approved on June 4, 2019, by the 9th Sangguniang Panlalawigan and followed by Gov. Solon on September 30, 2019. On October 3, 2019, they conducted the Planning Conference with the PLGU heads. The meeting discussed the Sarangani IP Comprehensive Development Plan (Sarangani IP Master Plan) in relation to the implementation of the approved Sar IP Code of 2019.
In relation, the Sarangani Provincial Tribal Council (SPTC) serves as the administrative and has quasi-legislative functions for IP development in the province. While the Sarangani Indigenous Peoples Professionals Association (SIPPA) acts as the technical and management arm of the province’s IP governance and system.
“The new IPMR Benjamin Dunato plays an important role in translating the Sarangani IP Code into a master plan. If there are no concrete plans, there would be no budget. We should all support it. I hope we will continue to see the beautiful and positive impacts of the project,” Fulung Fredo added. “Sarangani will be the model for IP development in the country. I know I’m going to be busy soon to talk about this experience.”