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Enabling Indigenous Peoples with stronger, better network in North Cotabato

by Smart Communications | Jan 26, 2022
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In accordance with the customary laws of the Manobo Apao Descendants in Mt. Apo, a “pamaas” or ritual was done to signify the community’s acceptance of the project.

For PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications Inc., an important part of enabling and empowering Indigenous Peoples is putting in place a reliable and strong network and internet connection in the areas where they live.

True to its commitment of leveraging on digital technologies to improve the lives and livelihood of these communities and usher them to the digital economy, PLDT has completed in December 2021 its seven-kilometer stretch of fiber optic cable line roll-out within the Manobo Apao Descendants Ancestral Domain of Mt. Apo (MADADMA), an Obu Monuvu indigenous cultural community in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato.

MADADMA has 3,878 hectares of land with Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) covering the two mountain barangays of Ilomavis and Balabag and a portion of Kawayan in the Municipality of Magpet, Cotabato. At present, MADADMA has around 1,300 members representing a dozen clans.

Prior to the start of the project, PLDT made sure to follow all necessary procedures that respected the cultural requirements of the community by securing a Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) from the tribe.

FPIC is a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)-recognized right of indigenous peoples that allows them to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their areas.

“Nisugot mi ani nga proyekto kay nakita namo unsa sila ka sincero ug naghatag gyud sila og pagtahod ug respeto sa amoa dinhi sa ancestral domain.” (We are supportive of this project because we felt and saw their sincerity and respect to our community and ancestral domain),” Datu Randy Iyong, member of the MADADMA Council of Elders said. 

“Amoa silang gipasabot na ingon ani ang proseso, mga buhaton, tabang sa Ginoo ug pinaagi sa ilang pagsunod sa among mga hangyo, hangtod karon ang PLDT-Smart ug ang Madadma, nindot kaayo og relasyon pinaagi sa komunikasyon na kanunay, konsulta na pirmi sa mga lider dinhi sa ancestral domain (We explained the proper process, with the help of the Lord, our partnership went smooth and PLDT-Smart and MADADMA maintained a healthy relationship through communication and series of consultations involving their key persons and our IP leaders),” Iyong added.

Brigido A. Baroro Jr., the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Barangay Ilomavis attested that the roll-out of fiber lines in their area is compliant to all provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act 1997 (Republic Act No. 8371 of 1997).

“Mapasalamot gyud ming tanan. Dako nig tabang labi na sa students kay kasagaran karon online ang ilang class, need nila og research sa ilang module. Sa amoa pud diri sa MADADMA officers kung mag meeting mi karon through Zoom na, all our communication channels internet na gyud, maong pabor mi ani na technology hilabi na nga grabe ang pag respeto sa PLDT ug Smart sa among community.” (We are very grateful. The project is a big help especially to students’ online classes and research for their modules. It also helps us, MADADMA officers, because meetings nowadays are usually through Zoom. All our communication channels now need network and internet connection. We are very supportive of this project especially that PLDT and Smart have shown respect to our community),” he said.

Datu Iyong, along with his fellow members in the MADADMA Council of Elders and their chairman Datu Damaso A. Bayawan, hope to strengthen further their partnership with PLDT and Smart for a better connected community.

“Nagapanghinaot kami na sulod sa pipila ka tuig, na pinaagi sa maayong communication and system sa pagpadagan sa facilities dinhi, nagatuo and laom kami na kini magpadayon hantod sa sunod na henerasyon (We hope and pray that this partnership will prosper for years through continued effective communication. We are hopeful that this will continue until the next generations),” Iyong said.

This initiative to ensure connectivity to help improve lives falls under PLDT's broad and group-wide commitment to help the Philippines attain the UN Sustainable Development Goal #9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.