DAVAO CITY, October 31, 2003  (STAR) By Edith Regalado - President Arroyo turned over yesterday three ancestral domain titles expected to benefit more than 30,000 indigenous people in Mindanao during the closing ceremonies of the three-day Mindanao Indigenous Peopleís Congress for Peace and Development held here at the Davao Waterfront Insular Hotel.

"We are doing this in our effort to empower our indigenous people," the President told the more than 3,000 tribal folk who attended the conference.

Aside from the ancestral domain titles, Mrs. Arroyo also vowed to improve the delivery of basic services to the indigenous sector, including health services through their enrollment in the public health insurance program.

"Peace and development should always come together as we also see it fit that the medium term development program for the indigenous sector should be implemented," Mrs. Arroyo added.

The three ancestral domain titles included areas of the Manobo-Aromanen tribe in Carmen, Cotabato covering 5,680.6281 hectares benefiting 715 members as well as the one for the Talaandig community in Miarayon, Talakag, Bukidnon covering 11,105.5657 hectares for its 4,922 members and the Matigsalog-Manobo tribes in Kitaotao, Sinuda, Bukidnon covered 102,324.8186 hectares for 24,405 beneficiaries.

The three were among the 11 titles that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued since July last year covering 367,346.2555 hectares, or three times over the 100,000 hectare a year target set by President Arroyo in her state-of-the-nation address.

NCIP Commissioner Reuben Lingating also presented to the President a medium term development plan for indigenous peoples, history of indigenous peoples in the Philippines, and NCIPís 12-milestone agenda.

He also said the NCIP will work for the issuance of another set of ancestral domain titles for 46 provinces covering more than 200,000 hectares.

Meanwhile, NCIP Commissioner Norma Mapansa said the commission has initiated a policy dialogue with government agencies involved in ancestral domain delineation and land titling, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

The dialogue resulted in a NCIP-DENR memorandum circular on the implementation of the Indigenous People Rights Act (IPRA) and environment and natural resources laws and policies.

Meanwhile, the Office of the NCIP Chairman had lined up 12 priority agenda it will pursue.

The agenda seeks to fast-track the delineation and titling of ancestral domains; systematize and advance formulation of development plans and programs for ancestral domain titled areas.

The NCIP chairman also committed to revitalize the commission; institutionalize mechanism for quick-response; emphasize public relation and information; mobilize resources accessing and constituency building.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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