MANILA - The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday approved the original P1.1 billion proposed budget for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in its version of the national budget.
This may effectively restore the agency's funding, which the House of Representatives had slashed to P1,000 Tuesday.
If approved by the Senate plenary, the Senate version will then be reconciled with the House version at the bicameral conference committee.
"The budget is restored in the Senate, as we have approved it on committee level. Majority of the senators we've talked to, they will approve, they see no reason to abolish the budget," Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri told ABS-CBN News.
As versions of the two chambers will undergo debates, Zubiri vowed that the Senate would "fight for the budget of the NCIP."
"The Senate will stick to our position on the budget of the NCIP," he said.
In approving the proposed funding, the Senate committee ordered the agency to submit several documents before its budget is forwarded to the Senate plenary.
These include a "comprehensive strategy to combat poverty," a "flowchart to improve processes" within the agency, and a reevaluation of the Philippine Indigenous Peoples Ethnography project, which had been allocated P641 million for operations of its central and regional offices, and expansion activities.
Zubiri said the agency should also be ready to answer questions on programs for IP communities amid criticism that it has failed to perform its mandate.
On the motion of Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, the House had on Tuesday cut the agency's budget to P1,000 over its supposed "failure" to defend the rights of national minorities.
He cited the plight of the Lumad, highlighted by the September 2015 killings of Emerito Samarca, head teacher of an award-winning school for Lumad youth in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo allegedly by paramilitary forces.
Besides slashing the NCIP budget, the House also cut funding for the Commission on Human Rights and the Energy Regulatory Commission to P1,000. -- with a report from Zandro Ochona