Indigenous peoples in the Philippines

The official results of the 2010 Philippine national census were released in 2012, putting the country’s official population at 92.34 million. The 2010 census included an ethnicity variable for the first time but no official figure for the indigenous peoples has yet come out (see related discussion below). The country’s indigenous population thus continues to be estimated at between 10% and 20%.

The indigenous groups in the northern mountains of Luzon (Cordillera) are collectively known as Igorot while the groups on the southern island of Mindanao are collectively called Lumad. There are smaller groups collectively known as Mangyan in the central islands as well as even smaller, more scattered, groups in the central islands and Luzon. 

Situation of indigenous peoples in the Philippines

Indigenous peoples in the Philippines generally live in geographically isolated areas with a lack of access to basic social services and few opportunities for mainstream economic activities or political participation. They are the people with the least education and the least meaningful political representation. In contrast, commercially valuable natural resources such as minerals, timber and water are concentrated in their areas, making them continuously vulnerable to development aggression from both private and public extractive industries.

Legislation Concerning Indigenous Peoples

Republic Act 8371, known as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), was promulgated in 1997. The law has been lauded for its support for respect for indigenous peoples’ cultural integrity, right to their lands and right to self-directed development of these lands. More substantial implementation of the law is still being sought, however, apart from there being fundamental criticism of the law itself.

The UNDRIP and ILO Convention 169

The Philippines voted in favor of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) but the government has not yet ratified ILO Convention 169.

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A yearly update on the situation of indigenous peoples in the Philippines is published every year in May in IWGIA's publication "The Indigenous World". The latest yearly updates can be downloaded to your right.

View our photos from the Philippines on Flickr