DIRECTOR General Guiling “Gene” Mamondiong of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) yesterday said the agency is inviting all 28 million Indigenous Peoples (IPs) to avail themselves of their scholarship program.

Mamondiong visited Cebu yesterday for the launching of the National Integration Scholarship Program at the Golden Prince Hotel attended by Tesda provincial and regional directors and officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Among those who accompanied Mamondiong were Tesda Directors Toni June Tamayo, Conrado Bares and Florencio Sunico Jr. and Darryl Honoraro of the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples.

In a press conference, Mamondiong said the indigenous peoples have been neglected, and President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed him to prioritize them for services to help them get integrated into the economic, social and political mainstream.

He said the program will be led by NCIP and supported by Tesda through education and training.

“What we are trying to do now is to implement a comprehensive socio-economic and political development for Indigenous Peoples. Progress comes from education. We will not be able to develop our Indigenous Peoples unless we start in education,” Mamondiong said.

Mamondiong said that Tesda will be given P6.9 billion to give skills training and they have about 122 training centers all over the country, which will be open for screening and enrollment on Feb. 27-28, 2018. President Duterte has pledged to add P9 billion to the program.

Free admission

“These are all free. Free tuition, free food, free allowance, and free tool kits. So, those who want skills must avail themselves of it,” Mamondiong said.

“The role of Tesda in this endeavor is to provide our Indigenous Peoples with technical education and skills training. We will attract them not only by providing free education, but free food and transportation allowance for each of them,” Mamondiong said.

With this, Mamondiong said there will be no more reason for Indigenous Peoples not to join this scholarship program.

Mamondiong said that, if necessary, they will build skills training centers or multipurpose centers for the Indigenous Peoples in all the regions.

Region 7 has two Indigenous Peoples, namely, Bajao in Cebu and Eskaya in Bohol, but although they are prioritized, this program is open to all poor Filipinos. (EOB)