23 January, 2020

Situation of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines: Submission to the 59th Session of CESCR

Print Email

Committee in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

59th Session

Meeting with Partners

26 September 2016



Statement by TEBTEBBA – Indigenous Peoples’ International Center for Policy Research and Education






Good morning, Mr. Chair. Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments on the situation of indigenous peoples in the Philippines. This statement is made in relation to the Philippine NGO-PO Network Submission to the Committee and elaborates further on indigenous peoples’ issues contained in the submission.

Disaggregated Data– There continues to be a serious lack of data on the number and distribution of indigenous peoples in the Philippines. Although an ethnicity variable was included in the 2010 census,  official data has yet to be released by the national government and, in cases where regional offices have released their disaggregated data[1], credibility of the results and enumeration methodology have been questioned. Preliminary data presented by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show an indigenous population of 8 million, which constitutes a drastic and unrealistic reduction of 6 million from the population estimate of 14 million by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). We recommend the immediate release of 2010 ethnicity data, enactment of a law mandating the inclusion of an ethnicity variable in the Philippine census (such as Senate Bill No. 912 or the Ethnic Origin Bill and House Bill No. 579 or the Ethnic Origin Census Bill), and the improvement of training for census enumerators on culturally-sensitive methods for collection of ethnicity data.

Indigenous Peoples and Mining– Medium and large-scale corporate mining and conflicting laws governing natural resources continue to be major problems that indigenous peoples face in their communities. The free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) process is being manipulated in favor of mining corporations[2]. The presence of military personnel and investment defense forces in mining areas has limited indigenous peoples’ freedom to work in their lands and caused indigenous children to drop out of school. Indigenous human rights defenders are being harassed and killed – there have been 76 documented cases of killings of indigenous human rights defenders from 2010 to 2016. Environmental degradation caused by mining has resulted in health problems, significant reduction of agricultural production, water pollution and decreased fish catch.

In relation to mining and militarization, the following are our recommendations:

  • - Include indigenous peoples’ ancestral domains and community conserved territories and areas (ICCAs) in the list Areas Closed to Mining or “no-go zones” in accordance with Section 1 of Executive Order No. 79, series of 2012 (EO 79).
  • - Amend the 1975 Revised Forestry Code (P.D. 705), and other DENR administrative orders related to the management and utilization of natural resources to reconcile conflicting provisions with the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) specifically recognized and protected under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA).
  • - Repeal the 1995 Mining Act and immediately pass the Alternative Philippine Mineral Resources Act.
  • - Ratify the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169).
  • - Ensure genuine free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples with regard to development and other projects. Prosecute NCIP personnel involved in the manipulation of the FPIC process and issuance of fraudulent FPIC Certificates or Certificates of Precondition.
  • - Protect IP leaders from extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, forced displacement, rape, and harassment. Launch investigations into past cases of extrajudicial killings and bring perpetrators to justice.

Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights– Under the 1997 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), the NCIP has the mandate to to facilitate full delineation and demarcation of Ancestral Domains of indigenous peoples through the issuance of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). Unfortunately, ancestral domain titling remains a burdensome process that has not undergone any review to simplify and streamline the process. An additional process put in place by Joint DAR-DENR-LRA-NCIP Administrative Order No. 01-12 (JAO 01-12), issued in 2012 with the objective to address jurisdictional and operational issues between and among these land titling agencies, has resulted in undue delay in the issuance and registration of CADTs. Of the 182 CADTs issued by the NCIP to date, less than 50 have been registered with the Land Registration Authority (LRA). This is a problem for indigenous peoples because when their CADTs are not registered with the LRA, they are less able to prevent intrusion into their ancestral domains by migrants and corporations. We recommend the repeal of  JAO 01-12 and the immediate registration by the LRA of all CADTs validly issued by NCIP.

Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Economic Development – Of the 182 Ancestral Domains with CADTs issued by the NCIP as of June 2015, only 59 have formulated their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP), a development plan required by the IPRA. The communities with ADSDPPs were assisted by various private and public agencies, the NCIP and local government units. It is noted, however, that some ADSDPPs were formulated through the help of mining companies and electric companies (such as the National Power Corporation and the Apex Mining Corporation). At present, none of the ADSDPPs formulated have been incorporated into the Barangay (village) development plans, resulting in conflicts in development priorities between the local government unit and the indigenous peoples’ communities, and in non-implementation of ADSDPPs because of lack of resources from the government.  We recommend that the government ensure full implementation of IP representation in the local government units (LGUs) where they reside, particularly when it comes to the formulation of development and land use plans, and allow IP communities to formulate their own development plans.

Indigenous Peoples and the Mindanao Peace Process– Indigenous peoples recognize and support the struggle of the Muslim minority in the Philippines for peace and against oppression and historical injustice. However, indigenous peoples, often caught in the crossfirebetween the government armed forces and the Muslim rebels, are victims of a conflict that is not theirs. Nonetheless, indigenous peoples welcome the commitment of President Duterte to fully recognize and implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (the final peace agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine Government, signed in March 27, 2015) and recommended that the implementing body of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro ensure the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples. We also recommend that the law being drafted to implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro fully include the rights of indigenous peoples under the IPRA, including the right to ancestral domains and lands.

Right to Health– One of the main government program to address the right to health of indigenous peoples is the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) program of the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD). This modified program is meant to address the main problems identified with the Conditional Cash Transfer Program (CCT) or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), including failure to address cultural and language needs, as well as the geographical remoteness and lack of education and health infrastructure in indigenous peoples’ communities. It is recommended that construction of schools and health centers that provide culturally-appropriate services be included as an integral part of the MCCT.

As part of the government’s commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on maternal and child health, the Department of Health (DOH) issued the “No Home-Birthing Policy” and local government units (LGU) have implemented this policy through ordinances that penalizes traditional birth attendants and women who give birth at home. This policy puts additional strain on indigenous women, given the lack of basic social services and inaccessibility of health centers for remote indigenous communities. Pregnant indigenous women are now forced to hike for long distances just to get to the nearest health facility. Indigenous women who choose to give birth at home under the care of traditional birth attendants are fined six thousand pesos each before the birth can be registered, exacerbating the problem of the low rate of birth registration of indigenous children. We recommend the modification of this policy to take into account the situation of indigenous peoples, the repeal of punitive local ordinances, and the accreditation of and appropriate training for traditional birth attendants.

Right to Education- Indigenous peoples are the least served in terms of access to education, mainly due to the remoteness of their ancestral domains, as well as poverty and the prohibitive cost of sending indigenous children to school, and the discrimination experienced by indigenous children. Statistics show that nine out of ten indigenous children in Mindanao have no access to education and many indigenous communities do not have schools. Armed conflict between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) continues to be a serious threat in many IP areas. While some community-based organizations and religious institutions have sought to provide alternative schools for IPs, there are reports that these schools, as well as government-run daycare centers, have been used for the government’s military counterinsurgency program called Oplan Bayanihan (the Internal Peace and Security Plan). This has resulted in grave human rights violations in IP areas, which have continued with impunity. We recommend that military harassment of indigenous peoples’ schools be stopped immediately and the perpetrators of harassment, killings and destruction of school property be held accountable.

While we welcome the adoption by the Department of Education of several policies on indigenous peoples’ education[3], we note that these have not been adequately implemented or funded. We recommend the increase in investment for inclusive education, ensuring that programs reach indigenous communities and areas with high poverty incidence, support for multi-lingual education and the culturally-appropriate accreditation of IP teachers.

Right to Culture– While there are several government cultural programs and policies, indigenous peoples are concerned that the main program for promotion of indigenous peoples’ culture is through festivals, which are not under the control of indigenous peoples and sometimes misrepresents their traditional cultural expressions. There is demand from indigenous peoples for increased and sustained support for Schools of Living Traditions (SLTs), a program of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA). We recommend the adoption of implementing rules for Article 31 of the IPRA on Community Intellectual Rights for the protection of indigenous peoples’ knowledge systems and practices (IKSPs) and intangible cultural heritage.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

[1]Republic of the Philippines, Philippine Statistics Authority, Regional Statistical Services Office, Cordillera Administrative Region, “Special Report: Ethnicity (based on the results of 2010 Census of Population and Housing)”, 2015.

[2]An assessment of the implementation of the FPIC guidelines that was conducted by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) in 2012 found that 53% of FPIC processes were carried out in relation to mining and that many claimed that the FPIC process was manipulated and FPIC certificates fraudulently issued.

[3]Such as the following Department Orders (DO): DO 62, s. 2011 - Adopting the National Indigenous Peoples (IP) Education Policy Framework, DO 103, s. 2011 - Creation of Indigenous Peoples Education Office (IPsEO), DO 32, s. 2015 - Adopting the Indigenous Peoples Education Curriculum Framework, and DO 50, s. 2016 - Hiring Guidelines for Teacher I Position in Schools Implementing Indigenous Peoples Education Effective School Year 2016-2017