Sen. Padilla seeks to resolve C. Luzon Aetas’ fund row

September 23, 2022 PS Jun M. Sarmiento 91 views

THE Senate took the first step toward addressing the row preventing Aetas in the Clark Sub-Zone in Central Luzon from availing of some P19 million in funds, with a hearing on the matter Thursday afternoon, September 22, 2022.

Senator Robinhood “Robin” C. Padilla led the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities and Muslim Affairs in the hearing to address the problem that stemmed from an agreement signed in 2007.

“Ang Senado, lalo na ang ating Senate President Migz Zubiri, ang kabilin-bilinan niya na ayusin itong problema ng ating mga katutubo,” said Padilla after hearing the sides of the Aetas, Clark Development Corporation (CDC), and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The hearing stemmed from Padilla’s Senate Resolution 149, which seeks to look into the joint management agreement (JMA) of the CDC, NCIP, and Tribong Ayta on Dec. 6, 2007. The resolution noted that the Tribong Ayta claimed it has yet to receive a 20% share of the net income from the use of their ancestral domain in Sitio Haduan, Mabalacat, Pampanga.

During the hearing, representatives of the Aetas, including Ruvielane Margarito and Oscar Rivera, said their rights to a “prosperous” life were violated in their own land. They also sought an accounting of the funds due to them.

Rhodex Valenciano, NCIP Commissioner for Region III, said the JMA can be amended while his office can draft a special provision to the charter of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA).

For her part, Commission on Audit (COA) Supervising Auditor Rachelle Policarpio said steps should be taken to ensure the indigenous peoples understand the agreements they sign.

Meanwhile, CDC Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel Josep Jefri Miranda said these issues can be tackled and resolved in the next meeting of the Joint Development Council.

On the other hand, Padilla said he wants to get to the bottom of the trust fund for the IPs. “Susulatan namin ang COA kung magkano talaga,” he said.

Padilla also said he expects the issues to be resolved in time for the next hearing. “Huwag natin palampasin ang pagkakataong ito ang 19th Congress sa pamamahala ni Senate President Migz Zubiri,” he said.