Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro: The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is piloting the setting up of separate polling places (SPP) for indigenous peoples (IPs) in Region IV-B, or Mimaropa provinces (Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) to cast their votes on May 9.

Lawyer Jerbee Anthony Cortez, regional election officer said the Indigenous Peoples Voting (IPV) project is a first in the country with two Mindoro provinces as pilot areas owing to the presence of eight tribes here or groups of Mangyan.

The IPV addresses special needs of the IPs and issues on accessibility to polling places, harassments, illiteracy and discrimination experienced by them during elections.

At present, there are 8,917 Mangyan in Oriental Mindoro and 11,357 in Occidental Mindoro.

Of the total population, only 1,413 are registered voters in Oriental Mindoro and 1,470 in Occidental Mindoro.

Under the IPV, 18 separate polling places and five accessible voting centers (AVCs) will be set up to serve only IPs in 14 villages in Oriental Mindoro and seven in Occidental Mindoro.

SPP is a special area within an established voting center where only qualified IP voters will be allowed to vote. On the other hand, AVC is a new voting center which will be established by Comelec near the IP communities.

All is set for the holding of the May 9 synchronized elections in 2,832 clustered precincts in 1,459 villages in the region.

“Except for the testing and sealing (of the Vote Counting Machine), we are ready for the May 9 election,” Cortez said during the briefing in the recent Regional Joint Security Coordinating Center.

The deployment of the VCMs began on April 15, with all machines now warehoused in all provincial and municipal hubs.

As of November 16, 2015 there were 1,589,326 registered voters in the five provinces and two cities in Mimaropa.