Empowered Philippine tribes preserve nature, prevent conflict

Menuvù community
The Menuvù community in Mt. Kalatungan, Bukidnon, shows the 3-D map of their ancestral domain. The community has developed a Community Conservation Plan (CCP) primarily to sustain and improve protection and conservation efforts for the Indigenous Community Conserved Area (ICCA) as well as the improvement of the well-being of the Menuvù community. (Photo: Glaiza Tabanao)

At the slopes of one of the highest mountain ranges in the Southern Philippines, two local tribesmen couldn’t contain the pride in their eyes and contentment in their hearts.

Early in January 2013, residents in their Indigenous Community Conserved Area (ICCA) witnessed not just the physical construction of their tribal hall.  More than the creation of the wooden edifice for their religious and medicinal needs, they also witnessed the international recognition of their role in nature conservation – if not the fulfillment of their self-esteem and satisfaction of their communal pride.  Situated within the Mt. Kalatungan Range Natural Park, a Protected Area touted to be the country’s sixth highest peak, the tribal Menuvù community in Pangantucan town, Bukidnon has garnered recognition after being included recently in the global ICCA registry.

Highlights

  • Philippine tribes in their Indigenous Community Conserved Area (ICCA) was given international recognition for their role in nature conservation.
  • The documentation and global registry of ICCAs have been made possible through the New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP), a joint undertaking of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources through its Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, and the Global Environment Facility through the United Nations Development Programme.
  • From Kalinga to Cabangan to Kalatungan, the ICCA benefits are: (a) Empowerment of tribal identity/communal pride; (b) International recognition through ICCA global registry; (c) Cross visits/learning from different ICCA pilot sites; and (d) Settlement of long-standing tribal conflict among two tribes.

Miles away in the highest peaks of the Northern Philippines, formerly warring tribes within the Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park in the Cordillera Administrative Region appeared to have symbolically laid down their arms the past year.  Or at least temporarily, if not yet permanently, just so they could work in parallel to process their global ICCA documentation within their overlapping boundaries.  More than empowering indigenous identity, the ICCA process has helped resolve or even prevent conflict among the belligerent Banao and Balatoc tribes in the Cordilleras.

In the nearby Zambales Mountain Ranges, a tribal leader was able to interact with fellow international ICCA advocates in the gathering of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in India last October 2012.  Ayta Abellen leader Salvador Dimain of Cabangan, Zambales was able to present his people’s traditional knowledge systems and practices supporting the protection of their sacred forests as sources of water, food, and medicine.

“Our community is known not just locally but now globally via the ICCA registry, bringing us self-pride,” Menuvù elder Nonoy Nunay said.  Tribal leader Herminio Guinto chimed in: “The ICCA has been a big help, opening our eyes to reflect on our culture.” He said the entire ICCA process has sent a strong message to indigenous peoples that their way of life in preserving nature had been significant, that their system of traditional governance since time immemorial is to be respected.  For them, it appeared as if the entire world now saw them in a fairer light, with a newer identity, a rebirth through their inclusion in the prestigious database of the United Nations Environment Programme–World Conservation Monitoring Center.

The documentation and global registry of ICCAs have been made possible through the New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP), a joint undertaking of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources through its Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, and the Global Environment Facility through the United Nations Development Programme.  NewCAPP aims to have the Philippine PA system expanded under new and diverse management regimes, like ancestral domains as well as local government- and community-managed areas, to cover an additional 400,000 hectares of key biodiversity areas.  The Project has been at the forefront in recognizing ICCAs and their role in biodiversity conservation, elevating them nationally through the National ICCA Conference in March 2012, and internationally through the World Parks Congress in Jeju, South Korea and the 11th CBD Conference of the Parties in Hyderabad, India.

From Kalinga to Cabangan to Kalatungan, the ICCA benefits are: (a) Empowerment of tribal identity/communal pride; (b) International recognition through ICCA global registry; (c) Cross visits/learning from different ICCA pilot sites; and (d) Settlement of long-standing tribal conflict among two tribes.