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Environment Secretary Gina Lopez is eyeing the prospect of providing financial support for indigenous peoples (IPs) who wish to set up their own businesses.

Lopez said she plans to establish an enterprise development program for IPs using the resources of the state-owned Natural Resources Development Corp. (NRDC), the corporate arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The new DENR chief said she wants to instill entrepreneurship among IPs and help them improve their lives.

“To my delight, I have found out that one of the GOCCs (government-owned and -controlled corporations) of the DENR is the NRDC,” Lopez said.

She has directed the corporation to draw up the mechanics of a program to provide financial and other forms of assistance to IPs and to set aside the needed funds.

“When I went to Palawan, I found out that the IPs there have abaca, rattan and almaciga. They have so much in their lands, but they do not have the money [to start their own business],” she pointed out.

According to Lopez, the IPs normally seek the help of Chinese traders for business capital. As a result, she said, these traders “use the ancestral rights of the IPs to get their natural resources and money.”

“What if the IPs conduct a joint venture with the NRDC? This means that if they lack the capital or the financial resources, we can give it to them,” Lopez said.

Established in 1982 by virtue of Executive Order No. 786, the NRDC aims to promote investment in natural resources-based industries by providing financial, technical or management support.

“All I need is an approval from the President that the net income there flows back to the community,” Lopez said.

She added: “If that is allowed, which I am almost sure because he is for the people, then the DENR can be great tool for poverty alleviation in areas where there are environmental concerns.”

Lopez cited the La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City as an example of an ecological area which earns P40 million a year.

She said there are around 17,000 couples holding their prenuptial photo-shoots in the ecopark. “If we convert all those photo-shoots into income, that’s how much money the community gets.”

“I want to replicate that kind of entrepreneurial venture in all our National Greening Program areas, which means that after we do agroforestry, we go to business, and the money goes to the community,” Lopez said.

“We need to put a spirit of enterprise in all the areas so that the people would benefit.” ###

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