i-Files #2: Indigenous Peoples’ Struggles in the Philippines

We are pleased to announce the publication of the second issue of the i-Files entitled Indigenous Peoples’ Struggles in the Philippines. It is initially available only in English. Spanish and French translations are under way.  If you wish to download the English issue, click here.


Foreword To i-Files Issue #2:

The three articles in this publication are windows to the current situation of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines: that of the horror of extrajudicial killings that accompany the militarisation of IP territories and its resources; that of the failure of Philippine government to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples with an inutile law called the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act or IPRA; and, that of alternative learning centers or schools for indigenous children which are being attacked by government forces as part of the state’s military stance on indigenous peoples.  While this vociferous attack on IP is being perpetrated in what human rights organisations call the climate of impunity that prevails in the Philippines, consolidated indigenous peoples organisations (IPOs) with their NGO partners in civil society, persist to struggle for their right to organise, mobilise and advocate for the respect and defense of IP rights to land, life and identity.

In this fearful situation, the organised collective action of Indigenous Peoples is most necessary to protecting and defending their rights.

Furthermore, there is still much to be done in asserting IP rights to life, land and culture, given the intensely comprehensive investment climate that is being touted by the Philippine government to transnational extractive industries that exploit natural resources which are usually found in Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands. This investment climate was aggressively pushed in the 1970s during Marcos’s martial law, and has been the Philippine government’s policy ever since to accommodate all types of foreign investments whether detrimental or not to the environment. The effect of this government policy is their need to bring in the military to quell any opposition or discontent regarding these extractive industries. The militarisation of the countryside and of IP areas is government’s response to the Indigenous Peoples’ call for development justice and peaceful consensual conflict-resolutions.

The Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines are generally poor, and they are marginalised by both government and the lowland majority, and yet they live in well-preserved natural environments that are rich in natural resources.  While their indigenous practice is considered “sustainable development”, outsiders are forever treacherously encroaching into these territories craving to own or exploit these resources for their own greed. The defense of land, life and identity is related to the Indigenous Peoples’ sense of protecting the “world” they live in, which is often times called by non-IP people as “the environment”. The natural habitat of most IP in the Philippines is in the hinterlands where they still practice traditional and sustainable cultural beliefs that protect and preserve the health of the natural environment for many generations to come.

There is still much to be done. There is still need to do more in terms of monitoring and documentation, not just in defending and protecting the Indigenous Peoples civil, political and cultural rights, but also in promoting and protecting their right to development as a means to find peace between their communities and in the country as a whole.

Working for development justice is also being on the road to achieving peace, hence, the openness of the new government to seek peace with all contending forces must be given active help and encouragement. It is, therefore, imperative to support the peace talks between the new government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

All Filipinos including the Indigenous Peoples should be able to build a collective voice in seeking and working for a just and lasting peace in the country.

Josephine Dongail
Board of Directors



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