THE government will continue to provide protection to the country’s indigenous peoples (IP), including the Lumads in Mindanao, with or without international agencies looking after them, Malacañang said on Sunday.
In an interview over state-run Radyo ng Bayan, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said there are government agencies tasked to ensure the welfare of IPs and that international organizations such as the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) are merely a “bonus” to the sector.
“If there will be changes in the situation of the UNHCR, it will not result in a huge vacuum or loss because the government is on top of the IP sector’s problems,” Coloma said.
The official was reacting to reports that the UNHCR is planning to get out of Mindanao for lack of funds.
“We have no direct information on any plan for their gradual flight from Mindanao due to lack of funds because they are a UN agency,” Coloma said.
“Through assuring that the government is doing all it can to promote the welfare of IPs, we take full responsibility in giving them protection and care,” he added.
According to the palace official, the government is focused on IP welfare “ever since.”
“We have the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in the national government. There are our various agencies that take care of them,” Coloma explained.
He was reacting to a UNHCR report that more than 6,000 IP members in Mindanao were displaced and deprived of government assistance. The report said militiamen and other armed groups have been making IP communities miserable.
“We have yet to see the full contents of the bulletin issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Nevertheless, the government is continuously addressing the situation of the indigenous peoples in Mindanao, and is working tirelessly to ensure their safety and to protect them from unnecessary acts of violence,” Coloma said.
“The (military and police) are working closely to pursue the individuals and groups responsible for this incident and bring them to the bar of justice. We are working with all stakeholders to bring lasting peace and development to these areas affected by the conflict,” he added.