MANILA, Philippines – In almost all cases, especially when it comes to development and progress, trade-offs can show its ugly and saddening side. Even if the trade-off is not really necessary in the first place.

This is especially the case for some Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and supposed-to-be protected areas in our country. However, a sliver of hope remains for those aggravated and oppressed in these ways, through pieces of legislation from Congress.

For one, House Bill No. 115, which was introduced by Rep. Teddy Baguilat, aims “to pursue sustainable development, recognition of the rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs), biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation”.

Indigenous groups in Bulacan come together to celebrate Dayaw Festival in Malolos. Photo: Bulacan Provincial Government

Indigenous groups in Bulacan come together to celebrate Dayaw Festival in Malolos. Photo: Bulacan Provincial Government

The bill also listed down the following as its guiding principles:

  • “Recognition and promotion of ICC/IP rights to their ancestral domains includes the full recognition of ICCAs as well as the ICC/IP’s right to maintain, protect, and regulate access and prohibit unauthorized intrusion thereto”;
  • “As part of their responsibilities to their ancestral domain, ICCs/IPs shall have priority in the management of their conservation areas and the preservation, restoration, and maintenance of ecological balance and biodiversity therein, with the full and effective assistance of government agencies”;
  • “ICCAs shall be considered in the formulation of, and integrated in, national and subnational policies, plans and programs in recognition and respect of the ICC/IP’s right to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions within the framework of national unity and development”;
  • “The positive contribution to biodiversity conservation of ICCAs and related sustainable traditional indigenous forest resources management systems and practices shall be fully acknowledged and included in the accounting and reporting of the national implementation of United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity obligations”; and
  • “ICCs/IPs shall have a fair and equitable share in the commercial profits of users of well-defined and confirmed ecosystem services provided by ICCAs, in recognition and respect of the ICC/IP’s right to benefit and share in the profits from allocation and utilization of the natural resources found in their ancestral domains”.

The bill can be read in its full format as filed here:

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Meanwhile, in the Upper House, Senator Loren Legarda filed Senate Bill No. 32, amending Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992.

The need for the amendment was mentioned in the explanatory note:

Since 1992, 113 have been declared through Presidential proclamations as protected areas under the NIPAS. However, only thirteen (13) protected areas have finally proceeded to be legislated as such in the more them twenty (20) years since the NIPAS Act was enacted. It is imperative that proclaimed protected areas after the effectivity of the Act are finally declared as such through Congressional fiat as required by the NIPAS Act and pursuant to the directive of the Constitution.

You can read the proposed amendments as filed below:

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Meanwhile, in March, a stakeholders’ consultation and policy dialogue was held at the University Hotel of the University of the Philippines relevant to the two abovementioned bills.

Members of ICCs in Nueva Vizcaya converge for the Grand Ammungan Festival. Photo: Beegee Lorenzo/Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Government

Members of ICCs in Nueva Vizcaya converge for the Grand Ammungan Festival. Photo: Beegee Lorenzo/Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Government

Here are some of the responses of indigenous leaders on the policy review of the ICCA Bill:

            “Datu Ed Banda, from the Mt. Apo National Park, Davao, spoke of the importance of settling conflict around the boundaries of neighboring ancestral domains, and shared the successes of their efforts on Mt. Apo. He also noted contradictions in the implementation of the NIPAS. He questioned the ease with which banana plantations, business interests, and land grabbers were able to encroach on the protected area. To him it appeared that the NIPAS law was not effective in keeping encroachers out of protected areas. Ironically, he said, peasant settlers inside protected areas question indigenous peoples, who are in fact within their ancestral domains. In Datu Banda’s view, there should be no overlap: NIPAS in protected areas, indigenous governance in ICCAs.”

“Salvador Dimain, called “Ka Badong” by his friends, from Subic Bay National Park, Zambales said he was striving on his own to study the laws and that he finds that there are too many contradictions. He expressed hope that the ICCA Bill would become a law, to resolve the contradictions. Ka Badong expressed anxiety over the fate of the ICCA Bill.”

“Datu Makalipay Rico was adamant that indigenous self-governance and customary laws must be recognized before mechanisms can even be discussed. Referring to the history of incursions into indigenous territories, he pointed out that the current land laws of the Philippines continue to be based on the Regalian Doctrine. This is a significant point he raised, for the enactment of IPRA should have rendered invalid the basis for the continuing imposition of the Regalian Doctrine on indigenous territories.”

“Datu Rico concluded, ‘We respect them, the support groups, the government, NGOs, but I will not accept that we – that traditional governance – should overlap with NIPAS. NIPAS entered our territory. Because Mt. Apo is there and you can’t move the mountain. You can’t transfer Mt. Apo to Manila, can you?’”

Read the full proceedings report of the consultation here:

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Note: The #AgriFYI series is made with content support from the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development at http://angoc.org/ and the International Land Coalition-Philippines at http://ilc-nes.ph/. You may check out their social media accounts at https://www.facebook.com/AsianNGOCoalition/ and https://twitter.com/ANGOCorg.

Posted by RealTalk

RealTalk provides data-based analysis and perspective on issues mostly meddled by propaganda pretending to be objective information and topics that can be better viewed using numbers, facts, and official documents.

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