ILOILO CITY — The Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO) has taken steps to raise the awareness of the Ati Indigenous Peoples (IP) community about government efforts to reach out to them as they are considered vulnerable to threats coming from insurgents.

“We would like our IP community to know that most likely, they are vulnerable. They could be a target of insurgency,” IPPO spokesperson, Capt. Antonio D. Monreal Jr. said in an interview on Thursday.

Monreal was tapped by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to discuss Executive Order (EO) 70 with the Ati communities in three barangays in San Enrique town, during the celebration of the 22nd anniversary of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 and the National IP Month in Barangay Dacal.

EO 70 is also known as “institutionalizing the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, creating a national task force to end local communist armed conflict and directing the adoption of a national peace framework.”

Monreal said IPs usually have issues about government services, which local communists or insurgents use to exploit them.

“The PNP (Philippine National Police), as part of this approach, would like to let them know that we are serious in helping them together with concerned agencies. With the enhancement of programs by local government units, we will be able to bring them the services of the government and rally their support,” he added.

He said communist terrorists usually “exploit” depressed areas. In Iloilo, there are areas considered as threatened or affected where there are IP settlers.

Monreal added that there was even a report of possible recruitment by the communist terrorist in San Enrique but it was preempted.

In case the IPs feel that they are threatened, they can get in touch with the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that are responsible for ensuring security.

Meanwhile, the celebration on Thursday was also attended by the Iloilo II Electric Cooperative (ILECO 2), which provided free installation of free electricity to seven houses of the Ati.

The NCIP also provided free medical and dental services that benefitted some 57 families from four IP communities of the town.

Elna Mallo, a day-care worker in Dacal, said it was the first time in 36 years that an NCIP-organized medical-dental mission was held in their barangay. There were similar activities but they were initiated by private groups.

She said her fellow IPs were happy and excited because the NCIP did not just hold a free medical and dental mission but also helped them get empowered.

“Personally, I am very much empowered. In this country, I feel that as long as we are given the opportunity and proper guidance, the Ati is also capable,” Mallo, the regional winner of the Bayani Ka of the KALAHI CIDSS in Western Visayas, said.

KALAHI CIDSS or the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services is a poverty alleviation program of the government.