Press Release
September 6, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today called on the government to save the ethnic languages of the Filipino nation from the danger of extinction by allowing them to be used as a medium of instruction in elementary schools in the respective regions where they are widely spoken.

Pimentel expressed alarm that the ethnic languages are dying except Tagalog which has been mandated by law and by the Constitution as the basis of the country's national language.

"Many of us who were not born in Tagalog-speaking areas believe that unless we take pains to protect our own indigenous languages, they would eventually disappear completely from our consciousness and from use in our verbal and written communications," the senator from Misamis Oriental said in a privilege speech at the Senate.

He made it clear that he is in favor of having a national language because Filipinos need it so that they do not speak the language of foreigners (English) to communicate with one another.

However, he held the view that forcing the language of one ethnic group upon other ethnic groups is "divisive and disruptive of the national fabric."

Pimentel cited the experience of Pakistan where the super-nationalists in Islamabad declared that only Urdu would be the national and official language. This resulted, among others, in the breakaway of East Bengal and the eventual formation of Bangladesh. In Sri Lanka, the major cause of the ongoing civil war was the imposition of Sinhalese as the sole national language over the objections of the Tamils.

The minority leader mentioned several major languages of the Filipino people that should be preserved:

1. Iloko in the Ilocos and in adjoining provinces, 2. Pangalatok in Pangasinan, 3. Kapampangan in Pampanga, 4. Tagalog in Manila and in Southern Luzon provinces, 5. Bikolano in Bicol region, 6. Hiligaynon in Panay and Negros islands, 7. Binisaya in Cebu, Bohol and many parts of Mindanao, 8. Waray in Samar and Leyte, 9. and the languages of the Maranaos in the Lanao provinces, the Maguindanao in Cotabato and adjoining provinces and Tausug in Sulu and nearby areas.

Pimentel cited data showing that Tagalog users have steadily increased in number from 19 percent of the population in 1948 to 29.30 percent in 1995.

In contrast, users of other ethnic languages are declining as follows: Cebuano from 25 percent in 1948 to 21.17 percent in 1995, Iloko, from 12 percent to 9.31 percent, Hiligaynon from 12 percent to 9.11 percent, Bicol from 8 percent to 5.69 percent, Waray from 6 percent to 3.81 percent, Kapampangan from 3 percent to 2.90 percent, and Pangalatok from 3 percent to 1 percent.

Pimentel said the "Save Our Language through Federalism" (SOLFED) movement woefully predicts that in about 50 more years, many of the vernacular languages will cease to exist. To illustrate the insurgency of the situation, SOLFED said Zambali is now spoken only in four obscure towns in Zambales.

He proposed two courses of action to arrest the deterioration of the vernacular languages - 1. a change in the school curriculum to allow the use of dominant languages in various regions as medium of instruction from grades 1 to 6; and 2. the adoption of a federal system in which 10 federal states will be created based mainly on linguistic preferences of the citizens.

Pimentel said the first proposal makes sense because concepts would be more easily understandable to grade schoolers if states in the language of their homes.

He said he is not aware that this change in the medium of instruction needs legislation to implement it.

"All it probably needs is a policy adopted by the Department of Education that may immediately be implemented for the entire six grades or staggered over a few years as may be necessary in accordance with the decision of our education officials in the DepEd," he said.

But if a law is necessary, Pimentel said he believes that enough support from the lawmakers can be easily mobilized to implement the proposal.

"Now is the time to make the first move to revise the curriculum of our educational system so that we can allow the use of the local languages as the medium of instruction in our grade schools. Our other major languages are dying. We have to save them now."

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