Agusan Sur Lumads welcome PAMANA
Health care services provided by the Department of Health
San Luis, Agusan del Sur, June 18 – Barangay Binicalan has been home to the Banwaon, Manobo and Talaandig tribes for centuries. This 200,000-hectare community is so remote that one would have to walk a total distance of 110 kilometers to get to the nearest town, and back. Taking the habal-habal (passenger motorcycle) could greatly lessen travel time, but one risks getting sore limbs, bruises and scratches from five hours of rough, bumpy riding on unpaved roads through open plains and forest lands. Institutions find it twice challenging to visit and deliver basic services to the tribal communities who, because of poverty, become more susceptible to recruitments of armed groups, while also confronting their own internal tribal conflicts.
Bringing gov't closer to lumads
Areas such as Barangay Binicalan are the priority of the goverrnment's peace and development program called PAMANA or Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Peaceful and Resilient Communities) aimed at addressing the root causes of armed conflicts in communities affected by these as well as those covered by existing peace agreements.
Special attention is given to areas that are too far and geographically challenging in terms of access to be prioritized by local governments for development projects. Thus, for Barangay Binicalan, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process as the lead agency of the PAMANA program, brought a gathering of government agency resources to address the issues and concerns of its lumad inhabitants in its classic convergence style.
During the two-day event, the community of Binicalan benefitted from the various social services delivered directly to each household by the different national government agencies anchored on PAMANA's Pillar 2.
Services provided include health care from the Department of Health, and a feeding program and nutrition seminar from the Provincial and Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office. The Council of Elders, on the other hand, was also able to verify indigenous customary laws through the help of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
The children were also enrolled in schools through the intervention of the Department of Education, while the Provincial Government, through Governor Eddie Plaza, committed to see four Banwaon students complete a course and graduate from college.
The lumads are hopeful that the program will make way for a more promising future, while preserving the age-old Banwaon culture, traditions and values.
Sectors joining together
The highlight of the activity was the groundbreaking of PAMANA projects that include the construction of a Tribal House, provision of medicines for the Botika ng Barangay, and the rehabilitation of a farm-to-market road.
Hundreds of Banwaons, members of the media and civil society organizations, representatives of the municipal and provincial governments, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Samdhana Institute all joined together in making sure that Brgy. Binicalan would benefit from the PAMANA program.
Plaza later encouraged the 26 sectoral datus to take the lead in maintaining peace and order in their areas of responsibilities. He said, “You must talk amongst yourselves and take effort in resolving conflicts among your constituents so that even investors will be encouraged to come here."