By Hannah Torregoza
After defending the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) budget, members of the Senate worked for the restoration of the P1.1-billion proposed budget of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), despite the House of Representatives decision to also slash its budget to P1,000.
Last night, the Senate finance committee approved the NCIP’s original proposed budget in its version of the P3.767-trillion 2018 national budget. Prior to this, it also approved the CHR’s P678-billion proposed budget for 2018, despite the House’s decision to approve a meager P1,000 budget for the CHR.
‘There were concerns (on how they use their budget) and they need to address these concerns. But we truly believe that the NCIP is sincere to address these concerns. That’s why we restored their budget,” said Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, a member of the Senate finance committee chaired by Sen. Loren Legarda.
“That is why we restored the budget. And we will wait for their submission of (documents) we required of them regarding their projects for sustainable development and fighting poverty,” Gatchalian said.
Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri stressed the NCIP’s role in protecting and upholding the rights of indigenous peoples is mandated under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or the IPRA law, thus they would also fight for its budget to be restored during the bicameral conference hearing.
“So unless we amend that law, the agency still stands. That’s why our challenge to the NCIP is to make yourself relevant. That is why you deserve this budget.
“And we’re hoping that next year, they will make themselves more relevant. Otherwise, they will really find it hard (to get their budget approved) in next year’s budget (deliberations),” Zubiri said.
Zubiri and Gatchalian said they hope they would be able to thresh out their differences with the House of Representatives when the national budget enters the bicam.
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