Bishops visit Ati village, urge public to help IPs

July 12, 2023 - 1:41 PM
Catholic bishops are welcomed by Ati children at their village in Boracay Island on July 6, 2023. (Diocese of Kalibo)

Catholic bishops have called for public support for the Ati indigenous community who risk losing their land given by the government.

The call was made after several prelates visited the Ati village in Boracay Island after their three-day annual retreat in Aklan province’s Kalibo town on July 6.

The country’s Catholic leaders are also in Kalibo for the 126th plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on June 8 to 10.

“We have to find ways to cheer and support the IPs [Indigenous Peoples] in Boracay,” said Bishop Valentin Dimoc of Bontoc-Lagawe, chairman of the bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

In 2018 during the Duterte administration, the government awarded the tribe with land titles as part of a poverty-alleviation program for IPs.

However, the Atis face new threats of losing the lands awarded to them amid claims these are unsuitable for agriculture.

“…Powerful and influential people wanted it to be canceled,” Dimoc said. “The Ati people continue to struggle and assert their IP rights.”

“Please do not forget the IPs and visit them and extend help: prayer, encouragement, appreciation, financial assistance, legal assistance, skills development, etc.”

“Come and learn. Let us not reduce them to Ati-atihan tourism only but visit them and know their way of life, story, and aspirations,” he said.

RELATED: Bishops: Respect land titles of Ati tribe in Boracay