Indigenous peoples’ groups decry use of IPRA and NCIP for development aggression


Main Story: Respect our rights to land and life, indigenous peoples asked on World IPs Day

MANILA – Most often, “large-scale resource-extractive ventures like mining and so-called development projects” destroy the environment, the lands that are home to the country’s indigenous communities, and with it, their traditional economic activities. These prompted KAMP, the National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples Organizations in the Philippines, to conclude that such projects are “unbeneficial.”

IPs preparing to burn a combat-ready effigy of Pres. Aquino who has a dog called NCIP/IPRA.(Photo by Marya Salamat /

In its statement on World’s Indigenous People’s Day, KAMP reiterated that from experience, the resources lying within the indigenous peoples’ ancestral territories are being extracted for profits by a few, leaving environmental destruction in its wake while the indigenous peoples themselves are either displaced or exploited as cheap labor.

From the lens of such painful experiences, KAMP views the recently unveiled Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016 of the Aquino government as in the same mold of destructive “strategies for development.” Continuing to espouse and “simply repackaging the neo-liberal globalization policies of liberalization, privatization and deregulation,” Aquino’s development framework, said KAMP, would only further deprive the indigenous peoples of their rights to ancestral land and self-determination.

Deceptive, meaningless IPRA

The Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), the law that is supposed to protect the indigenous peoples, has proved to be “powerless in protecting their rights amid the plunder of their land and military atrocities,” different indigenous peoples’ groups said in a forum. Fourteen years since IPRA was enacted, organizations of indigenous peoples assessed it as a “failure”.

They assailed the law as a “tool to deceive and appease the indigenous people’s struggles for land and self-determination.” Ultimately, the law defeats the purpose for which it was purportedly enacted, based on experiences of the many indigenous peoples’ group.

In a forum held at the House of Representatives this week, various groups of indigenous peoples shared their difficulties in availing of the IPRA-promised ancestral domain claims.

As of Dec 2010, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has issued 156 Certificates of Ancestral Domain (CADT) covering 4.3-million hectares. But only 37 of these are registered, representing about 937 thousand hectares, said Giovanni Reyes, secretary-general of KASAPI (Coalition of Indigenous Groups in the Philippines).

“In other words,” Reyes said, “after nearly 14 years of IPRA, less than 1-million of approximately 7.5-million hectares of ancestral domains have been titled.”

Summarizing the numerous cases of stalled ancestral domain claims recounted by different tribesmen and tribeswomen, it takes an average of seven years to complete the processing of CADT, Reyes said, “because the application process is, by design, rigorous and incomprehensible.”

Members of indigenous peoples’ organizations marched to Mendiola on Aug 9 World IP Day.(Photo by Marya Salamat /

Among others, the documents are written in English; it must pass through many stages and through many levels of the NCIP and other implementing government offices. But instead of addressing the bureaucratic obstacles, the NCIP saw it fit to “exasperate the indigenous peoples,” said Reyes. He cited as example the IPRA requirements that CADT/CALT applicants should submit. Supposedly, the IPRA requires that only “any one of ten” enumerated ethnographic proofs should be submitted. Yet, the NCIP has made all 10 of the IPRA’s optional ethnographic proofs mandatory. “In so doing, the NCIP has significantly increased the burden of proof on indigenous peoples,” Reyes said.

Other leaders of indigenous peoples’ organizations added that the NCIP has also been inventing “fake” set of elders and IP leaders who it prefers to talk to in matters of FPIC and CADT.

On the other hand, the NCIP has not been as restrained in issuing certifications for mining, logging and dams. Reyes reported that during the same period that the NCIP has impeded the granting of CADT titles to indigenous peoples, it has issued 320 certifications for mining mostly, plus certifications for logging and dams.

For KAMP, the bigger problem stems from IPRA’s commodification of ancestral lands, which runs counter to the way the indigenous peoples regard land (ie “How can you own something that has been here before you?” – Macliing Dulag).

How free is free in FPIC

Various indigenous peoples groups have now been calling for a review of IPRA, especially its controversial “Free Prior and Informed Consent” (FPIC). KAMP wants to scrap the IPRA altogether. From the experiences of indigenous peoples in various areas of the Philippines, this FPIC has been “debased and debauched by self-serving interests of companies and the NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples),” said KAMP.

Numerous cases show that the NCIP makes “wrongful reporting regarding ancestral claims,” said Reyes of KASAPI. He pointed as proof the NCIP’s misreporting that certain mining applications do not overlap with ancestral domain claims, paving way for issuance of mining certifications. Reyes added that in ancestral domain territories where indigenous peoples did not apply for CADT, “the process of securing FPIC was not conducted before the NCIP issued a certification, thus resulting in conflicts.”

IPs preparing to hold a program in front of Mendiola Peace Arch.(Photo by Marya Salamat /

Unfortunately, in conflict situations, state repression has been the experience of indigenous communities asserting their rights. In a paper prepared for this year’s thematic workshop of indigenous peoples, KAMP, KALUMARAN, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance and Dinteg (Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Legal Center), wrote that “A pattern has been established each time: mining exploration permits, mineral sharing and production applications and coal mining contracts were granted by the government to private mining corporations before the onset of military operations.”

Under Arroyo, 139 indigenous peoples were recorded to have been extra-judicially killed. In one year of Aquino, eight had been killed. Prolonged and continued military presence in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples and poor settlers has led to their evacuation, such as the case of the Manobo in Surigao del Sur. These are the same communities whose residents had evacuated during the 1990s, and again in various years in 2000s.

In Eastern Rizal, the groups of indigenous peoples noted that the 2nd Infantry Division of the AFP has been established in the area, where also exists Camp Capinpin, a major military camp, plus satellite bases around Rizal especially in areas affected by the Laiban dam project. All these threaten to dislocate nine villages of indigenous Dumagat and Remontado in the Sierra Madre range. They have been defending their ancestral territories and preventing the construction of the said dam.

From north to south of the Philippines, this militarization is happening directly victimizing the indigenous peoples and settlers, reported Jude Bago, secretary-general of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, to national joint consultations with indigenous peoples in the House of Representatives this week.

The groups noted that aside from deploying state soldiers, the Aquino administration and local politicians have been utilizing paramilitary groups operating in indigenous communities.

Indigenous Peoples Agenda

Even as they challenged themselves to “continue to arouse, organize and mobilize” their people to defend their rights and land against plunder and repression, the indigenous peoples group who gathered in Manila this week from different parts of the Philippines tried to sought the help of progressive and friendly legislators to work for the cancellation of laws and other policies that infringe on IP rights. The laws include IPRA and Mining Act.

They also asked the peace panels of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the MILF to give them a voice, particularly their calls for self-determination, in the CASER (comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms) that the two groups are crafting and advancing in their separate peace negotiations with the Philippine government. (

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3 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Excellent article!

    The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.
    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.
    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.

  2. The Voice of IPRA and NCIP is very important. We are also working to recognise your rights in Nepal. We are looking future cooperation.

    Thanks with regards
    Kamal Sampang
    IPs Climate change Network Nepal
    Po Box 12476

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