The Speaker shared his thoughts during a roundtable discussion on the implications of federalism to the ICCs and IPs. The discussion was organized by the House Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples chaired by Rep. Nancy Catamco.

Alvarez said that he was pushing for a separate state for the IPs in the Cordilleras and Mindanao under a federal government which they themselves would govern according to their customs and laws.

Under a new Constitution, Alvarez said the federal government would have to respect the kind of system the IPs would implement to preserve their different cultures and let them have independence in governing themselves and the management of their own natural resources.

Moreover, Alvarez said the territories of the ICCs should not necessarily be contiguous because these tribes had their varied customs and traditions that had already been there since time immemorial, or prior to the arrival of foreign colonizers.

“Therefore, their heritage should be respected and adhered to under a federal government,” said Alvarez.

The Speaker criticized the current system wherein the DENR was recklessly issuing mining and logging permits to companies in areas considered as ancestral domain of the IPs. “This is a violation and total disrespect of the indigenous communities,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez maintained that this practice should be totally removed from the new Constitution and all issuances should be revoked.

The discussion was attended by several IPs with the ranks of Datus from Mindanao; IPs from the Cordilleras represented by Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse Mangaoang; and resource persons from the academe and former members of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, headed by former Rep. Gregorio Andolana.
The participants commended the Speaker for his advocacy to grant the IPs what they deserve under a federal government, especially since he himself is a member of the Manobo IPs.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., Senior Policy Adviser of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, echoed the wish of the IPs and ICCs to the House committee to retain their self-determination and asked for support for their aspiration for a strong political structure under a Federal.