MANILA, Philippines – With October signaling the annual celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Month, it is more and more apt to talk about the indigenous people in the Philippines as well as their communities.

The Philippine Statistics Authority defined “indigenous peoples” as a “group of people or homogeneous societies identified by self-ascription and ascription by others, who have continuously lived as organized community on communally bounded and defined territory, and who have, under claims of ownership since time immemorial, occupied, possessed customs, tradition and other distinctive cultural traits, or who have, through resistance to political, social and cultural inroads of colonization, non-indigenous religions and culture, become historically differentiated from the majority of Filipinos.” 

While this definition can give you a peek of who they are, it does not even start to encapsulate their stories not just as individuals, but also as communities in the context of the Philippines.

The United Nations Development Programme, in a publication citing 2010 data, cited that there are around 14 to 17 million Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines. At this point in time, total Philippine population is just around 93 million, so it can be said that there are more Filipino that have a stake on IP advocacy than normally thought.


Infographic: Gene Paolo Gumagay

The fast factsheet from UNDP also said that there were 110 ethno-linguistic groups, which were mainly concentrated in Mindanao, Cordilleras, and a few areas in the Visayas.

This also signals the possible inter-sectionality of IP issues with other pressing social matters in the Philippines.

For example, civil society organizations and the Department of Environment and Natural resources joined forces to create a projects that will “strengthen the conservation, protection and management of key biodiversity sites in the Philippines by institutionalizing Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Conserved Areas and Territories (ICCAs) as a sustainable addition to the national Protected Area (PA) estate through strengthening the legal and regulatory framework and administrative procedures that harmonizes the mandates, plans and activities amongst national government agencies involved.”

The project is called Phil ICCA or the Philippine ICCA project, envisioning the improvement of “indigenous peoples (IPs) and key stakeholders for effective governance and management of ICCAs.”

Also, in both houses of Congress, certain legislation pieces were also filed related to IPs and their conserved areas and territories. House Rep. Teddy B. Baguilat filed House Bill No. 115 while the Senate had filed a similar bill in the previous congress, but has yet to be filed in the current congress.

A policy brief from ILC-NES listed the following as main features of the ICCA bill:

  • Provides for a system of recognition, registration, protection and promotion of the covered lands, providing penalties to any act of desecration of the abovementioned areas. Furthermore, a law specifically for ICCAs would provide the necessary government mandate, especially the annual budget and people needed to manage the lCCAs (Section 5 and Section 14).
  • Establishes a national ICCA registry to ensure the availability of official information on ICCAs. The National ICCA Registry shall contain records of all pertinent information voluntarily submitted by the concerned ICC/IP regarding their respective ICCAs. (Sections 10, 11 and 14).
  • The ICCAs shall be “declared as no go zone for mining and other destructive forms of natural resource exploration, development and utilization. These activities shall likewise be not allowed outside the ICCAs if it will adversely impact the ICCA” (Section 6).
  • Provides incentives in the development of sustainable livelihood opportunities for ICCs/IPs particularly those consistent with traditional practices and resource use that contribute to the sustainable development and proper management of the ICCAs (Sections 19 and 20).
  • Inclusion in the Comprehensive Land Use Plans and Forest Land Use Plans. The ICCAs recorded in the National ICCA Registry shall be included and duly reflected in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) of the concerned local government unit (LGU). National government agencies shall likewise ensure that the ICCAs are recognized in land use plans covering lands of the public domain (Section 12).
  • Inclusion in the Protected Area Management System. In cases where ICCAs overlaps with Protected Areas, the ICCAs shall be recognized and included in the management systems of protected areas and KBAs. Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSPs) and Customary Laws of ICCs/IPs duly documented shall be recognized and respected. ICCA plans and conservation practices shall be harmonized into the Protected Area Management Plan of the protected area (Section 13).
  • Has penal provisions against those who violate the Law (Sections 21 and 22). In addition, the prosecution for offenses set forth in Section 21 of this proposed law shall be without prejudice to any liability for violation of Republic Act No. 8371 (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997) and other criminal or civil liabilities.

Note: This report is made with content support from the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development at and the International Land Coalition-Philippines at You may check out their social media accounts at and

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