• Senate panel restores P1.1-B budget for commission on indigenous people

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    THE Senate finance committee approved on Thursday night the P1.1-billion proposed budget for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), after the House of Representatives slashed its budget to P1,000.

    But the approval of NCIP’s budget by the finance panel did not come without any condition and senators gave officials of the agency marching orders for them to come up with programs and projects that would make the office relevant.

    “There were concerns on the performance of the agency that need to be addressed, but we believe the NCIP is sincere in addressing them,” Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said in an interview after the budget deliberation.

    The NCIP, Commission on Human Rights and the Energy Regulatory Board were the three government agencies the House of Representatives gave a P1,000 budget to for 2018.

    Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate pushed for the budget cut, claiming that the agency failed to fulfill its mandates.

    Sen. Sherwin ‘Win” Gatchalian, in a separate interview, said the panel has required the NCIP to really focus on sustainable development and help in the fight poverty among indigenous peoples (IPs).

    Gatchalian noted NCIP has been there for 20 years but the situation of IP remains unchanged that is why the senate panel demanded concrete strategy from NCIP officials.

    “It should not be business as usual in the NCIP remember the IP sector is the most marginalized sector in our country,” Gatchalian added.

    Zubiri, on the other hand, expressed optimism that the Senate would be able to convince lawmakers at the House of Representatives during the bicameral conference committee hearing on the 2018 proposed budget.

    “We will appeal to our colleagues in the  House of Representatives that we need the agency that will assist our IPs,” he said. “We also don’t want to have an impasse in the bicam.”

    JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA

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