Message of UNDP Country Director Toshihiro Tanaka

16 Dec 2013

Political Structure and Customary Laws Research and Documentation Output, Sequoia Hotel, Quezon City

Chair Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo, NCIP;
Executive Director Forester Marlea P. Munez, NCIP;

Director Jeanette Florita, NCIP;
Ms. Roxanne Gale R. Villaflor, Project Development Officer, NCIP; Ms. Raizel Pauline Albano, NCIP;
Ms. Mandeep Kaur Ranu, NCIP;
Friends and partners from government agencies and civil society, and the development community;
Ladies and gentlemen.

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat!

It is an honor and pleasure for me to be standing with you all today as we reaffirm our commitment to strengthen the rights of indigenous people (IP) in the Philippines.

Globally and historically, Indigenous People have often been subject to discrimination and marginalisation from political processes and socioeconomic development. They often face exclusion, loss of ancestral lands, displacement, pressures to and destruction of traditional ways of life and practices. In extreme situations, social and political discontent has erupted into armed conflict. These issues are threatening factors of the stability and development potential of affected areas, but affecting most the lives and livelihoods of the indigenous peoples.

The mining continues to be a critical issue that directly threatens IP rights to land and self-determination. An estimated 70% of Filipinos, and up to 95% of IPs, depend their livelihoods upon natural resources like agriculture, fishing and forestry for survival. Mining resources or deposits are mostly concentrated in the Ancestral Domains of IPs; mountainous areas rich in biodiversity, and important watershed areas for irrigation, power and water supply. Often, it led to displacement of indigenous families from their home lands.  It is, therefore, of critical importance to ensure the genuine Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of IPs.

To address these issues, Congress passed the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, the first comprehensive law to recognise the indigenous peoples’ rights to their ancestral domains. Specifically, the law sets forth the indigenous concept of ownership under customary law, handed down orally from generation to generation. Differences in concept of land ownership between the new comers or the State and the indigenous peoples have often led to a massive loss of ancestral lands for the indigenous peoples.

Indigenous Political Structures and Customary Laws

In this context, UNDP is committed to support the efforts of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to strengthen the rights of IPs through protecting and promoting the right of IPs to their Ancestral Domains; their right to self-governance and empowerment, their right to social justice, and their right to their economic, social, and cultural development.

There is also a need to know the existing Indigenous socio-political structures in the Philippines. They should be strengthened to enable IPs to democratically determine their pathway to sustainable development.

Greater awareness of and respect to the customary laws is necessary to ensure that duty-bearers will fulfill IP entitlements, as well as their native titles.  We will also further enhance claim-books which has been developed with the objective to help IPs and each tribe to confidently claim their rights that have been recognized by the State.

There is a need to create a smooth interface between the customary laws of the indigenous peoples and the formal laws of the state. Ethnographic data will also be consolidated to ensure more effective monitoring of IP rights, as well as more effective protection and promotion of native land titles. 

Supporting NCIP and the Need for Unity

The NCIP is the central institution to protect, promote and enforce IP’s rights. UNDP remain committed to support NCIP in building the capacity and knowledge base for addressing the complex challenges faced by the IPs. At the same time, there should be more unified and concerted efforts from within IP communities. IPs from different geographical areas, tribes, and affiliations must unite around their common agenda to protect and preserve indigenous institutions and the customary laws. For it is within these laws that the true ownership of land is held. It is within these laws that the rights of indigenous peoples can be protected and fulfilled. 

Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat!