Around six thousand Indigenous Peoples (IPs) mostly from the Ata Manobo tribe, and other poor residents of Talaingod, Davao del Norte, received goods and services during the conduct of the 16th Association of Regional Executives of National Agencies (ARENA) XI   Serbisyo Caravan on June 18-19 participated in  by about 30 government agencies, including the NEDA Regional Office (NRO) XI.

The Serbisyo Caravan served as a venue for the turnover of goods and services to pre-identified beneficiaries and for a consultative dialogue between government officials and tribal leaders. Davao del Norte Governor and RDC XI Chair Rodolfo del Rosario led the government  contingent  where the IPs had converged at  Sitio Jose B. Libayao,  about 40 kilometers from Tagum City.

Secretaries from the Cabinet Security Cluster led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)  Secretary Corazon  “Dinky”  Soliman, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Chairperson Leonor Quintayo, Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace Undersecretary (Usec)  Manny Bautista, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Usec Gettie Sandoval, Department of Health (DOH)  Assistant Secretary  Pauline Jean Ubial, 10th ID Major General Eduardo Año, and other key national officials were present to meet with the  IPs.

NRO XI Regional Director  Maria Lourdes Lim, in her capacity as ARENA XI Vice President, took part in the consultative meeting.  “We are very fortunate to have our national leaders among us today,” she said, as she introduced the officials from the national government and the ARENA XI members to the IP communities.

There  was  a  fiesta atmosphere in  the area as throngs of IPs of all ages, many of them wearing  native costumes, patiently waited  to receive their benefits. Among the onsite services rendered were: (a) the turn-over of ancestral domain titles, checks for livelihood trainings, pay-out of social pension and 4Ps beneficiaries, wages for emergency employment program; (b) provision of wheel chairs/assistive devices, farm gadgets and educational supplies; (c) ceremonial turn-over of KALAHI-CIDSS Pamana Projects; (d) community feeding; (e) medical, dental, legal, technical services and counselling; (f) distribution of seedlings and fingerlings; (g) information drive on scholarship grants; among others.

During the program, Maj. Gen. Año announced that the whole province of Davao del Norte has been declared as peaceful and ready for development. The declaration was based on the  improved security situation in the province through the resolutions passed by the  municipal and provincial peace and order councils. This was boosted by the signing of a joint declaration of support by national officials and ARENA XI members   for  Talaingod’s programs and projects.

One of the beneficiaries of the DOLE’s emergency employment program was Mr. Federico Dapidran, a migrant from Leyte. “We are so grateful that our government officials have come here personally to help us,” he said in Visayan while waiting for his turn to collect his wages of PhP330.00 per day for planting cacao, rubber and coconut seedlings right in his own land. He also  shared insights on the importance of government assistance. He  also said  that natives must engage in sariling sikap, especially in cultivating their fertile land.

The Serbisyo Caravan started in 2011 and has been a quarterly activity of the ARENA XI to provide effective convergence and public service delivery directly to the people in far-flung and depressed communities of Davao Region. This exemplifies the Whole-of-Nation Initiative convergence approach of the Cabinet Cluster for Security, Justice and Peace in  bringing all government services to conflict-affected communities.