MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights reminded the Philippine government that ancestral lands of indigenous cultural communities (ICC) and indigenous peoples (IPs) are “sacred” and any move on it should consider their rights.
In a statement on Wednesday, February 7, the rights commission said that any development plans must take into consideration IP rights to their ancestral domains as recognized and protected under Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act.
“At the heart of this is the protection of rights of ICCs and IPs to their ancestral lands,” the CHR said. “Their very identity and life are anchored on the land that their ancestors have nurtured and fought for with blood and sweat.”
Under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, IPs have the right to own, the right to develop, control, and use lands and natural resources. They also have the right to stay in these territories and cannot be relocated without their consent, among others.
The statement comes after President Rodrigo Duterte, on February 1, said he would want ancestral domains in Mindanao to be opened to investors. Opening these areas, he added, would be a way for them to generate wealth. (READ: Rappler Talk: The love-hate relationship between Duterte and the Lumad)
On Monday, February 5, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified that Duterte would first consult with IPs of Mindanao about the plan and they have the option to refuse.
CHR, however, said that it is vital “to be circumspect when it comes to development plans involving ancestral domains.”
“Development plans must not supersede their welfare, identity, and rights but must instead contribute to the strengthening and enhancement of their plight,” CHR said. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.