IBA, Zambales: The first Indigenous People (IP) mandatory representative to a provincial board in the whole of Luzon was sworn into office here on Wednesday, May 1, by Gov.
Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., signaling the start of a new era for local tribesmen who had long dreamed of political recognition and equality.
Chito Balintay, an Ayta tribal leader from Botolan town, became the first IP board member in Zambales and the entire Luzon after local tribesmen, with the support of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the provincial government, asserted their right to be represented under the law.
Balintay is expected to join the rest of the provincial board members in the next regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Zambales here.
Besides Balintay, seven other Ayta leaders who were chosen by Zambales tribesmen as their representative to town councils and two representatives in the barangay level were sworn into office by the governor.
They are Igmedio Gonzales, IP representative to the Olongapo City council; Gina Sotto, representative for Subic; Gerry de la Cruz, San Marcelino; John Sabangan, San Narciso; Enrique de San Juan, San Felipe; Alberto Amado, Cabangan; Franklin Cariño, Botolan; and Rolly Romualdo, representative for Barangay New Cabalan, and Zenaida Liwanag, representative for Barangay Old Cabalan, both in Olongapo City.
Ebdane said the IP representatives will become the voice of the Ayta people in Zambales, who have previously remained marginalized in terms of political and economic opportunities.
“Now that you have your own representative, you can better voice out your concerns, and the government in turn can better respond with caring and support,” Ebdane told some 1,500 Ayta tribesmen who attended the oath-taking ceremony at the Capitol.