Reflections on the Celebration of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples
05 August 2020 (Wednesday)
8.30 am to 10.45 am (Manila time)


At the onset of the 20th century, members of the indigenous groups of the Philippines were brought by foreign invaders all across the New America and Old Europe as display items. They were made to perform unspeakable acts to shock the civilities of the curious and dignified crowd. Today, the Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines, stewards of the earth and the bearers of the ways of the old civilization, are still caricatured and displayed in forums and treaties, in many forms and representations, unbeknownst to them. Many voices, except their own, dominate these portrayals. In the peace and turmoil of their ancestral lands, they remain to be the curiosity of the dignified yet faraway crowd.

The Philippines is the first country in Asia and is one of the few countries in the world to legally recognize the rights of indigenous peoples. The country’s Indigenous Peoples Right Act (IPRA) of 1997, an exemplary law focused on social justice, became the model for what ten years later was to become the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. With the award of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title to the Tagbanua Indigenous Peoples of Coron Island, covering more than 24,000 hectares of land and sea, the Philippines was the first country to recognize the indigenous people’s right not only to ancestral land but also to ancestral waters.

IPRA caters to the protection of the rights of over 14 million indigenous peoples, comprising around 13 percent of the country’s total population. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the primary government agency responsible for policies and programs on the rights of IPs and the recognition of their ancestral domains, has been steadfast in advancing its mandate. Around one-third of Philippine land is recognized as ancestral domains and are considered privately owned by indigenous peoples. To-date, more than 5.7 million hectares, or about one-sixth of the country have been duly titled in the name of indigenous peoples.

The framework also pursues the empowerment of IP communities, including through the increased representation in policy-making bodies at all levels of government, access to justice, and the implementation of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. The implementation of these policy frameworks has been supported by civil society organisations and other stakeholders. However, IP communities in the Philippines and the work of NCIP face serious challenges on the ground, coming from various sources, including business interests and terrorist groups, as well as from issues such as climate change, and the degradation of ecosystems crucial to their survival.

The Web Forum will discuss progress in the Philippines efforts in fulfilling the rights of indigenous peoples, and challenges to the full implementation of the 1997 IPRA. The dialogue to commemorate the International Day of Indigenous Peoples will be a direct engagement between representatives of IP communities across the country, government, partners, officials and experts in the UN system, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples. The Web Forum is organized by the NCIP, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat. It will be held via Zoom on 05 August 2020 (Wednesday) at 08:30AM – 10:45AM Participants are invited to register at http://tinyurl.com/y3kpgurn not later than 04 August 2020 (Tuesday). The webinar ID and Zoom link will be made available upon registration.