Some 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 ARENA XI Serbisyo Caravan on 18-19 June 2015 joined by about 30 government agencies, including NEDA Regional Office 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 to where the IPs had converged at Sitio Jose B. Libayao, about 40 kilometers from Tagum City. Secretaries from the Cabinet Security Cluster, led by DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman, NCIP Chairperson Leonor Quintayo, Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace USec Manny Bautista, OPAP USEC Gettie Sandoval, DOH ASec Pauline Jean Ubial, 10th ID Major General Eduardo Año and other key national officials were present for a personal encounter with the IPs.

NRO XI RD 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 ARENA XI members to the IP communities.

A fiesta atmosphere pervaded the area as throngs of IPs of all ages, many of them donning native costumes, patiently queued to receive their benefits. Among the onsite services rendered were the turn-over of ancestral domain titles, checks for livelihood trainings, pay-out of social pension and 4Ps beneficiaries, wages for emergency employment program; provision of wheel chairs/assistive devices, farm gadgets and educational supplies; ceremonial turn-over of KALAHI- CIDSS Pamana Projects; community feeding; medical, dental, legal, technical services and counselling; distribution of seedlings and fingerlings; information drive on scholarship grants; and a lot more.

During the program, PA 10th ID 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 improved security situation in the province through the resolutions passed by 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 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 330 pesos per day for planting cacao, rubber and coconut seedlings right in his own parcel of land. He shared insights on the importance of government assistance, but also believed that the 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 or Association of Regional Executives of National Agencies 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 on bringing all government services to conflict-affected communities. (Fely M. Rabe, DRD-NEDA XI)