The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said Wednesday the government should include indigenous people and minority groups in addressing the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a statement, CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said these groups face threats during national health emergencies as they have "unique health vulnerability, lack of access to adequate medicine and health services, poor sanitary conditions in far-flung territories, and the constant threat of land dispossession from outsiders."
Guia added that indigenous communities have little or no immunity to common diseases and a pandemic could endanger their group.
"When natural or man-made emergencies occur, experiences on the ground show that indigenous peoples and other minority groups are at risk of being excluded from humanitarian interventions. The current COVID-19 pandemic is no different. It is a state obligation to ensure that everyone receives emergency aid according to their needs and regardless of status," she said.
Guia said the government should provide the basic necessities of the indigenous groups as they lack the economic capacity to live and staying at home is not applicable to them as they are used to migrating regularly.
She added that the groups should also have access to medical help without any discrimination and that they should be given such information about COVID-19 and how to prevent from getting infected.
"Information being disseminated on how to prevent the spread of the disease should also be made available in as many local languages possible, and accessible in simple and comprehensible formats," she said.
"We recognize that there is a high competition for health services and essential supplies all over the country given the current context. But let us not forget our minorities who are less represented in decision making processes, have endured and continue to face multiple discrimination for a long period of time, and have lower social and economic capital to protect themselves from the threat of COVID-19," she said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier placed the country under a state of public health emergency during the Luzon-wide community quarantine.
The health department has tallied a total of 636 cases of COVID-19 with 38 fatalities and 26 recoveries nationwide.