Update 2011 - Philippines

Of the country’s current projected population of 94.01 million, estimates of the number of indigenous peoples range from 10 to 20%. There has been no accurate comprehensive count of Philippine indigenous peoples since 1916; the national census in 2010 included an ethnicity variable but the results had not yet been released as of the end of 2011. The indigenous groups in the northern mountains of Luzon (Cordillera) are collectively called Igorot while the groups on the southern island of Mindanao are collectively known as Lumad. There are smaller groups collectively called Mangyan in the central islands as well as even smaller, more scattered, groups in the central islands and Luzon.

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. They are the people with the least education and the least meaningful political representation. In contrast, commercially valuable natural resources such as minerals, forests and rivers can mainly be found in their areas, making them continuously vulnerable to development aggression.

The year 2011 commemorated the 14th year of the promulgation of the Republic Act 8371, known as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA). The law calls for respect for indigenous peoples’ cultural integrity, right to their lands and right to self-directed development of these lands. The Philippines voted in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the government has not yet ratified ILO Convention 169.1

hroughout 2011, indigenous peoples in the Philippines were focused primarily on policy. During a National Indigenous Peoples’ Summit from March 21 to 23, 134 representatives of indigenous communities from around the country forged a national Indigenous Peoples’ Consensus Policy Agenda. As its name implies, the Agenda lists calls for action that different networks of indigenous peoples and support groups agreed upon after a series of consultations in the previous year. Towards the end of 2010, these networks came together as the Consultative Group on Indigenous Peoples (CGIP), which spearheaded the Summit. The Agenda called on the government, donor agencies and CGIP members themselves to give priority to action points in the areas of respect for indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination, IPRA and the government’s National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), delivery of basic social services, protection from development aggression, human rights violations and militarisation, and recognition of the role of indigenous peoples in the peace process.2


Basic services

One significant development in the area of appropriate education for indigenous peoples was the Department of Education’s (DepEd) issuing of a departmental order entitled “Adopting the National IPs Educational Policy” in August. This policy framework calls for consideration of Indigenous Knowledge, Skills and Practices (IKSPs) so that indigenous peoples’ education can have appropriate basic education pedagogy, content and assessment. The DepEd intends to adopt the mother tongue-based multilingual education approach for indigenous learners. To support this government initiative the “Philippines’ Response to Indigenous Peoples’ and Muslim Education (PRIME) Program” is being implemented with support from AusAid, and piloted in 24 areas throughout the country with significant indigenous populations.

As with other countries where poverty is a problem, the Philippine government has a program on Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) called the “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program” (this translates as “program to help tide over poor Filipino families”) or “4Ps Program”. Identified poor families with pregnant women or children under 5 can avail themselves of cash from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).3 Officials from the municipality of Abra de Ilog on Mindoro Island, Central Philippines, have shared the fact that 30% of its population are Iraya Mangyan, and that 70% of its “4Ps” goes to indigenous peoples, illustrating a recognition that indigenous peoples are among the poorest of the poor.4 Yet there are still implementation issues that need to be addressed. For example, since indigenous peoples live in isolated areas, the cost of transport may be more than the amount of cash received per visit. Furthermore, requirements such as having to go to school or to the health centre are hampered by the indigenous peoples’ lack of access to these facilities, and many IPs lack identification papers.


Land and resources

A primary mandate of the IPRA is to recognise indigenous peoples’ ownership of their territories by awarding them a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). By the end of 2010, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) had approved a total of 156 CADT applications. This number did not change in 2011, and this for two main reasons. First, a CADT is approved by a unanimous decision of the NCIP’s seven-member Commission En Banc (CEB). At the beginning of the year, there were only four Commissioners in place, and CEB membership was completed only in the first half of the year. There was also a change in the leadership of the CEB, with the appointment of a new Chair (from among the Commissioners) towards the middle of the year. The new CEB then decided to put CADT application activities on hold pending a further review of the CADT application process.5

The NCIP is likewise mandated to assist indigenous communities in producing an Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP). By the end of the year, NCIP records showed that 92 ADSDPPs had been made, with three in the process of being completed in 2011. There are fundamental issues in relation to the NCIP and its ADSDPP formulation processes. Among the criticisms are: a heavy emphasis on investment generation at the expense of the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and culturally appropriate processes; the lack of NCIP staff capacity for this task; and a lack of budget.6 There are more ADSDPPs in existence apart from the NCIP list, but the NCIP refuses to recognise ADSDPPs produced with assistance from organisations which are wary of the NCIP methods and motivations. The NCIP is likewise reviewing its existing ADSDPP guidelines and draft manual. On the other hand, support organisations have been cautioned that ADSDPP formulation without a clear follow-up towards actual implementation is tantamount to simply building up the communities’ dreams.

With regard to the total number of CADT applications and the number of indigenous communities wishing to have an ADSDPP, progress is indeed slow. Other forms of tenurial rights to indigenous lands are thus continuously being sought. An emerging trend is for the recognition of Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs). Following a global study that showed that indigenous communities fared better in terms of environmental protection than governmentmanaged protected areas, there have been efforts to recognise indigenous peoples’ right to manage such areas. In the Philippines, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is implementing the “New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Programme” (NewCAPP), with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

This programme is seen as a way of bridging the tension between the DENR’s expressed mandate to manage special and vulnerable environmentally-significant areas, especially those marked as protected areas, on the one hand, and indigenous communities’ right to practise their IKSPs in relation to environmental protection, on the other. Thus one modality being encouraged by the NewCAPP is for indigenous areas to be recognised as ICCAs. This perspective is still a small voice within the DENR but it is hoped that the said project will contribute to making that voice louder.

Meanwhile, a series of regional consultations were held during the year to ascertain how indigenous peoples in the Philippines define ICCAs, what their motivations are in maintaining such areas, and what the threats to these areas are. A national conference to consolidate these data is planned for March 2012.


The exercise of priority rights

A major debate in relation to indigenous peoples’ rights to land and its resources is the issue of the “exercise of priority rights” (EPR). The IPRA states that property rights already existing within the ancestral domains should be recognized and respected. Thus, some argue that since inherently IPs have had ownership of their traditional territories “since time immemorial”, IPs have the right to be given priority in the use of the resources there. Some indigenous communities have declared that this is a basis for them to undertake mining on their lands themselves as opposed to allowing the entry of foreign mining corporations. In response to the flak received from groups opposed to mining, a few leaders who have agreed to mining on their territories have stated that this is their way of staving off the relentless pressure of mining interests that results in harassment and deaths within their communities; stating that they intend to pursue mining on their own does not necessarily mean that they will do so. A tricky element not articulated by these leaders is the matter of the necessary capital; it appears that they are dealing with capitalists who have links to the mining corporations, and the latter’s stipulations are then not scrutinised in terms of upholding indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental protection. The presence of private armies trained and managed by retired military officials to guard the mining interests of corporations is escalating, even in areas where indigenous peoples have declared the exercise of their priority rights. The NCIP, for its part, is preparing guidelines on the EPR.7


The right to meaningful representation

By 2010, there were two guidelines in place, one from the NCIP and one from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), in relation to institutionalising the representation of indigenous peoples in local government bodies, or mandatory representation, as it is referred to.8 These were, however, put on hold in the latter part of the year by the NCIP as it sought to review several guidelines, including one on mandatory representation that it had previously issued.

In the meantime, initiatives by some indigenous leaders and local governments have resulted in the selection of indigenous leaders for mandatory representations: city councils (2); provincial councils (4); municipal councils (42); and councils of the barangay (smallest administrative unit of the Philippine government) (178). Of these 220 individuals, 45% have received the government’s official Certificates of Appointment (COAs), another 45% do not have a COA but have received some form of monetary compensation or this is in process. Only 12% of these representatives are female, and only 9% are not from Mindanao.9 Regarding the latter, this may be due to two factors: mandatory representation is not as big an issue in the Cordillera, where indigenous peoples are the majority population, and a few provinces in Mindanao have passed resolutions for the selection of indigenous peoples’ representatives to the local governments.


Efforts of the National Commission on indigenous People

As with indigenous peoples and support groups, the NCIP was focused on policy in 2011. Already mentioned earlier is the fact that the guidelines on CADT application, ADSDPP formulation and mandatory representation are under review. The guidelines for facilitating Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) are also under review, backed up by studies on the part of two bodies: the Committee on Cultural Committees (CCC) of the House of Representatives and the consortium of organisations working on REDD+ preparedness. New guidelines being prepared include: exercise of priority rights, protection of IKSPs and recognition of indigenous peoples’ organisations.10 While lauding the endeavours of the NCIP to improve its policy frameworks as a basis for a better implementation of its mandate, there is an apprehension that the NCIP may be attempting to over-regulate indigenous peoples’ concerns. The challenge remains to come up with guidelines that are firm enough to matter in relation to principles but flexible enough to take account of a multicultural setting.

Another major focus of the NCIP during the year was the strengthening of its quasi-judicial functions through a study commissioned to look into the difficulties in implementing this function, its legal implications and the training of NCIP lawyers. The difficulties include a lack of lawyers in general, exacerbated by the difficulty in finding lawyers with sensitivity to indigenous peoples’ situation in particular, and the lack of operational funds.

For the months of August to October, and in partnership with the Congress’ CCC, the NCIP launched a campaign to highlight indigenous peoples’ issues. The theme agreed upon was “Karapatan, Kapayapaan at Kasarinlan ng Katutubong Kababaihang Pilipino” (Rights, Peace and Self-Determination of Indigenous Filipino Women).11 One major gain was the Philippine Commission on Women’s fuller engagement in the rights and issues of indigenous women. Key officials of the NCIP also shared the fact that it was a learning opportunity for the institution in relation to a broad campaign.


Concluding remarks

Towards the end of the year, Typhoon Washi hit north-east Mindanao and resulted in the disastrous flooding of two major cities and the deaths of around 1,000 people. Among the issues highlighted as a result of this disaster was the protection of the environment. Continued logging, despite a government ban, and mining were underscored as the culprits in the environmental degradation that was


said to have resulted in the flooding. This put some focus on the forests and mountains, where most indigenous peoples live.

While policy advocacy achieved some gains in 2011, a substantial improvement in the situation of indigenous peoples remains to be seen, as there is always a lag between policy and implementation. And, meanwhile, myriad human rights violations continue, as reported by several indigenous peoples’ organisations and support groups: harassment of indigenous peoples’ schools by the military resulting in the provision of educational services ceasing; the incarceration of indigenous individuals suspected of being communist supporters; and extrajudicial killings that remain unresolved even after several years.12

2011 therefore ended on a note of hope that the gains of the immediate past would, over the coming year, make a significant dent in the profusion of overwhelming and escalating challenges.


Notes and references

1   Data in this section are taken from: http://www.census.gov.ph/ accessed 6 March 2012; and sabino Padilla, Jr., 2000: Katutubong Mamamayan. Manila: IWGIA. The figures for the population are the same as in the previous year, since the Philippine government has not updated this number.

2    CGiP 2011:“Write-up of the results of the IP summit evaluation”, 8 April 2011; and Our commonground: 2010 IPs policy agenda. See also IWGIA, The indigenous world 2011, pp. 264-265,

3 PowerPoint presentation prepared by the DSWD dated April 12, 2011.

4 During a monitoring visit on June 29, 2011of the European Union to a project it is supporting in that area, entitled “Local Institution Participation toward Livelihood Empowerment of the Mangyan Indigenous Peoples of Occidental Mindoro”.

5 NCiP, 2010: “Status of AD/AL delineation and titling as of December 31, 2010; and NCIP OPIF/logframe, undated but as of 16 February 2012.

6 NCiP, 2012: “List of formulated ADSDPPs” as of January 2012.

7 See Section 56 of the IPRA; Endnote 10 below; and bulletins issued in 2011 by the ATM-Infoshare. ATM stands for Alyansa Tigil-Mining (alliance of civil society organizations supporting the stoppage of mining in IP lands).

8 See IWGIA, The indigenous world 2011, p. 269.

9 NCiP, 2011: “Mandatory representation of IPs/ICCs in Local Legislative Councils”, undated but as of 11 November 2011.

10  Sources for this section mainly came from documents from the NCIP: “NCIP OPIF/logframe”; and notes from the NCIP National Management Conference held in 15-17 March 2011, and updated as of 16 February 2012.

11  “Manifesto of support for the IPs solidarity campaign”, August to October 2011.

12  Alternative Law Group et al., 2012: “Joint submission on the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the Philippines, submitted to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines (2nd cycle, 13th session, 2012).


Maria Teresa Guia-Padilla is Executive Director of Anthropology Watch, which is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) composed of anthropologists and other social scientists who work with and for indigenous peoples in the Philippines. It engages in assistance to land titling, culturally appropriate community development planning, capacity building and advocacy on indigenous peoples’ issues.