Unique law recognizes indigenous groups’ contribution to nature conservation
In the Philippines, many areas that are rich in biodiversity overlap with indigenous territories. Therefore, IUCN NL supports partner NTFP EP in lobbying for a unique law. In this law, these indigenous territories and their inhabitants are recognized in national policy for their important contribution to biodiversity, as an addition to the protected areas that are owned by the government. Through this, ancestral lands and biodiversity are better protected.
For ages, indigenous groups in the Philippines have been connected to the natural world in their territory. There is currently no law that recognizes the contribution of indigenous people to the protection of biodiversity. The new law will also have stricter provisions than the current indigenous peoples’ rights act to prevent other parties to use this land for mines, dams or other developments.
Indigenous groups play an important role in conserving nature. Thanks to their strong connection to their land, they apply indigenous knowledge systems and practices to protect, govern and develop natural resources in these areas. Because they are dependent on the natural resources, developed their own governance systems and practices and strongly relate their cultural identity to these areas, indigenous groups often already manage them sustainably.
With support from IUCN NL, local partner NTFP EP (Non Timber Forest Products Exchange Program) supports indigenous groups in better protecting their territory through recognition in the new ICCA-law – which stands for Indigenous & Community-Conserved Areas.
Together with a number of other organizations, NTFP was part of the technical working group that drafted the legal text, bringing their experience with earlier, similar projects and their knowledge on sustainable livelihoods into the development of the new law.
The new law still has to pass through the Philippine congress. Once the law has passed, the Philippine government will open a national ICCA register, in which all of the protected areas managed by the indigenous groups will be registered with maps and other information. This register should enable local leaders and decision-makers to make better plans, which will protect cultural values and local biodiversity.