Indigenous Rights

Up to 15 per cent of the Philippine population - about ten million people - belong to distinct indigenous communities and retain a close link with their traditions. They avoided Hispanisation during Spain's 350-year colonisation of the Philippines. In 1987, after the fall of the Marcos regime, a revised Philippine Constitution recognised the ancestral land rights of indigenous people, and ten years later, in 1997, those rights finally became law in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

The Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA) is modelled on the provisions of the UN Draft Declaration on Indigenous Peoples' Rights. In theory IPRA is one of the most enlightened laws dealing with Indigenous Peoples, recognising the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples, and asserting that in the absence of such a clear level of consent, a project cannot proceed. In practice however, this is regularly undermined, not least by legislation such as the 1995 Mining Code, which in many cases gives mining claims to the same Indigenous land supposedly covered by IPRA. Indigenous Peoples communities and organisations, and their supporters, have been vocal in fighting for their legal rights for many years, and the struggle continues.

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