By Ellalyn de Vera Ruiz
The government has assured aid for Aetas in Capas, Tarlac, as it recognizes the indigenous peoples’ (IPs) as part of the poor and marginalized sector of the community.
In a dialogue with some 2,000 Aetas, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Virginia Orogo assured that the government is ready to listen to their concerns and to respond appropriately.
“I also urge you and other sectors to engage, collaborate and unite,” she said.
Orogo reiterated the President’s directive to help Filipinos belonging to IP communities as they belong to the poor and marginalized.
“The President wants to lower the poverty incidence in our country to 14 percent and to truly help those who are poor,” Orogo said.
One of the concerns raised by the Aetas was their non-inclusion in the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. An Aeta said that most of her tribesmen are not beneficiaries of the program, despite their obvious poverty.
Orogo responded that the Department implements a cash subsidy program specifically covering IPs which is the modified conditional cash transfer (MCCT) program.
“We will ask our social workers to go to your communities and assess your situation, at the same time check on our MCCT program,” she said.
Another Aeta from Sitio Betel in Brgy. Sto. Cristo brought up the absence of electricity services and the lack of better water system and farm to market roads in their community.
Some of the women also mentioned their difficulty in getting health services from hospitals and health centers.
In response, the DSWD chief said that IPs and other indigent sectors may avail of other forms of assistance from the DSWD such as financial, educational, and medical.
She pointed out that the requirements for medical assistance are simple which are a certificate of indigency/residency and a medical abstract.
“For now, you need to go to the DSWD offices to ask for assistance, but it is our objective to install a system wherein you will no longer need to stand in line,” Orogo said.