In the Philippines, massive oil palm monocultures are tearing apart indigenous peoples’ livelihood while plundering ecological valuable areas and precious biodiversity. As of June 2009, the total area devoted to oil palm in the country had already reached 46,608 hectares, covering the islands of Mindanao, Bohol and Palawan. Currently, in Northern Mindanao alone, 20,000 hectares of agricultural land are being targeted for conversion into oil palms, and another 20,000 hectares have been set aside for the same purpose in Palawan.
The number of indigenous peoples in the Philippines is unknown, but it is estimated that between 10% and 20% of the country's population. The Philippines has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but has not yet ratified ILO Convention 169.
Republic Law 8371, known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), was enacted in 1997. It has been praised for its support for the cultural integrity of indigenous peoples, the right to their lands and the right to self-directed development of these lands.
A more substantial implementation of the law is still sought, as the indigenous peoples of the Philippines continue to live in geographically isolated areas with lack of access to basic social services and few opportunities for widespread economic activities, education or political participation.
The Igorot, the Lumad and the Mangyan
The last census of 2010 included an ethnic variable for the first time. However, an official figure for the indigenous peoples of the Philippines has yet arrived, and it is estimated that the country's indigenous population is between 10% and 20% of the national population, which currently stands at around 102.9 million.
The indigenous groups in the mountains of northern Luzon 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, and even smaller and 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 living practices. In general, they live in geographically isolated areas with lack of access to basic social services and few opportunities for major economic activities, education or political participation. In contrast, commercially valuable natural resources such as minerals, forests and rivers are found mainly in their areas, which makes them continuously vulnerable to aggression against development and land grabbing.
Main challenges for the indigenous peoples of the Philippines
Indigenous peoples participated in the electoral process by presenting their own political party, Sulong Katribu, to represent their interests in the 2016 national elections. Their attempt to win seats in Congress through the party-list system failed not because of lack of votes, but because the Elections Commission and the Supreme Court refused to accredit Sulong Katribu to participate in the elections.
The disqualification of the party list was condemned by many indigenous peoples, who filed appeals stating that all requirements for the accreditation of party lists had been met and that the disqualification of Sulong Katribu was a measure to further marginalize and discriminate against the parties. indigenous peoples. However, these appeals were also denied.
KATRIBU, the national alliance of the regional organization of indigenous peoples, recorded 37 cases of extrajudicial executions of indigenous peoples, 62 illegal arrests, 21 political prisoners, 20 incidents of forced evacuation that affected 21,966 indigenous peoples, more than a hundred people faced charges, and the forced closure of 34 Lumad schools since Duterte assumed the presidency in July 2016.
Possible progress for the indigenous peoples of the Philippines
2,600 Indians and Moro carried out successfully, under the SANDUGO movement of national minorities for self-determination, the second Lakbayan or Caravan of Protest of National Minorities for Self-Determination and Just Peace in Metro Manila.
Between July and September 2009, a mission organized by the Philippines-based Ancestral Land/Domain Watch (ALDAW) and the Centre for Biocultural Diversity (CBCD) at the University of Kent demonstrated how the ecological balance and the survival of vulnerable indigenous communities on Palawan Island (a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” program of UNESCO) is being threatened by the ongoing mining rush.
After yearlong protests, indigenous peoples in Tabio, Mankayan of Benguet could celebrate the announcement that Far Southeast Gold Resources Inc. is pulling out its drill rigs, machinery, equipment and all ancillary materials of Tabio. The criminal and civil charges filed against indigenous leaders are, however, still not withdrawn.