Indigenous peoples in the Philippines

The latest census conducted in the Philippines in 2010 included an ethnicity variable for the first time but no official figure for the indigenous peoples has yet come out.  

The Philippines' indigenous population continues to be estimated at between 10% and 20% of the national population, which has been projected to currently lie at 102.9 million.

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.

Mangyan and Hunter-gatherers

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, including several groups of hunter-gatherers in transition. 

Indigenous peoples in the Philippines have retained much of their traditional, pre-colonial culture, social institutions and livelihood practices.


They generally live in geographically isolated areas with lack of access to basic social services and few opportunities for mainstream economic activities, education or political participation.

Pressure on Indígenous Peoples' Areas

In contrast, commercially valuable natural resources such as minerals,, forests and rivers can be found mainly in their areas, making them continuously vulnerable to development aggression from both private and public extractive industies and land grabbing.

Legislation Concerning Indigenous Peoples

Philippine indigenous peoples continue to face problems regarding:

  • non-recognition of their collective rights to land, territories and resources
  • Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)
  • Self-determination
  • Human rights

Amidst a climate of political repression, indigenous peoples are fervently struggling for the recognition of these rights in various forms, including assertion of genuine regional autonomy in the Cordillera and inclusion of indigenous peoples’ rights in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

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.

There is, however fundamental criticism of the law, which has also not been implemented at a substantial level.

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.

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in the Philippines to learn about major developments and events during 2015.

View our photos from the Philippines on Flickr