UN Special Rapporteur: 100 indigenous peoples protecting environment
killed in last 3 years
By Tricia Aquino, InterAksyon.com –
12 August 2015
MANILA – How are indigenous peoples in the Philippines doing? Over the
last three years, 100 indigenous peoples have been killed protecting
their homes and the environment, United Nations Special Rapporteur on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNSRRIP) Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said
When indigenous peoples protect the forests and the bodies of water, as
well as assert their claims over these, they become subject to arrests
or even extrajudicial killings, said Corpuz, a Kankana-ey from Besao,
Mountain Province who joined 79 leaders from 38 indigenous communities
who delivered the State of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines Address
(SIPA) at the University of the Philippines-Diliman in Quezon City.
“This needs to be addressed, and this kind of violation of the right to
participate and to assert their claims to their lands must be avoided,”
And with the Philippines bearing the brunt of environmental degradation
now more than ever, indigenous peoples have an important role to play in
preserving the country’s biodiversity, Corpuz stressed.
In the SIPA, the indigenous leaders lamented that indigenous peoples
were only mentioned once in President Benigno Aquino III’s final State
of the Nation Address on July 27, in the context of the Alternative
Learning System, which would lessen the number of out-of-school youth
among indigenous peoples and street children.
But absent in Aquino’s last SONA, Corpuz said, is the IPs continuing
struggle to fight to keep their ancestral land free from destructive
projects such as mining, big infrastructure, hydroelectric plants, and
plantations which destroy the natural environment.
If one looked at the Philippine map, the only forests left untouched are
those in the territory of the indigenous peoples, she said.
“Indigenous peoples have a big contribution to the national development
of the Philippines. And this contribution is in maintaining the
sustainability and the integrity of these ecosystems which provide
ecological service not just for the indigenous peoples, but for the
entire country,” Corpuz said.
“We are talking about clean water, clean air, the various plants, and
knowledge about microorganisms which promote the health of the people,”
Repeal AO stopping issuance of CADTs, reform NCIP
In relation to this, she condemned a Joint Administrative Order issued
in 2012 by the Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment
and Natural Resources, Land Registration Authority, and National
Commission on Indigenous Peoples which would delay the issuance of the
Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).
Before a CADT is released, the agencies would have to ascertain whether
these overlapped with the DAR’s Certificate of Land Ownership, the LRA’s
Torrens title, or the DENR’s protected areas.
She asked why an administrative order which prevents the issuance of
CADTs to indigenous peoples was created, when there is a higher,
national law — the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights — which recognized the
inherent rights of the indigenous peoples to their land.
“My analysis on that as a special rapporteur is first and foremost,
indigenous peoples have been subjected to a long history of injustice
which is the grabbing of their lands and takeover of their lands. The
least that the government can do under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights
Act is to provide these lands in the most effective and fastest way
possible,” Corpuz said.
Creating an administrative order which questioned the rights of the
indigenous peoples over their lands would not address that injustice,
“And I think that it is but right for the indigenous peoples to call on
the government to repeal that administrative order, which should in fact
be a lower kind of law compared to the national law, and the
constitutional provision that says that indigenous peoples’ rights over
their ancestral domains should be respected,” Corpuz said.
She also hoped that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)
would not become an agent of corporations, land-grabbing politicians,
and other interest groups in stripping the indigenous peoples of their
land. The agency must be reformed, she added.
Asked about the reported closure of schools for the Ata-Manobo tribe in
Talaingod, Davao del Norte, Corpuz said she had talked to the UN Special
Rapporteur on the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, who had gone
to Davao to visit the area in question.
The two agreed to write a letter addressed to authorities to raise the
issue, as well as that of the harassment supposedly experienced by
teachers and students in the hands of the military.
Corpuz said they both believed the rights of the indigenous peoples, as
well as those of the children to education, were violated.
Having signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child and adopted the
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Corpuz said, the
Philippines government needs to address these issues.
She said they would continue to discuss the issue along with the UN
Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education.
IPs not prominent in SDGs
With the former institution she worked with, Tebtebba Foundation
(Indigenous Peoples International Centre for Policy Research and
Education Network), Corpuz had also been pushing for indigenous peoples’
issues to be included in the Sustainable Development Goals, which would
set the development agenda for the UN member-states for the next 15 years.
“To a certain degree, there are recognitions, like the importance of
ensuring the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples, respect for
the land tenure systems of indigenous peoples, but the reference to
indigenous peoples are really very, very few,” she said.
“This is also why we are not that happy about the Sustainable
Development Goals that have been reached. But I think we are not giving
up. We are still looking at putting indicators that will measure the
progress as far as indigenous peoples’ rights and development are
concerned,” she added.
Earlier this August, the 193 UN member-states agreed on 17 SDGs and
would formally commit to their attainment in September. The SDGs would
forge a path toward economic development alongside environmental
sustainability and social inclusion.
Corpuz said IPs want the data showing the attainment of the SDGs to be
disaggregated so they could better monitor the progress of indigenous
While indigenous peoples made up five percent of the world’s population,
they also made up 15 percent of people living in extreme poverty, she said.
The Philippine government has to pay more attention to them because not
only do they make the country more culturally diverse, their knowledge
and practices would also ensure that Filipinos up to seven generations
ahead would live in a world that was better than it was now, Corpuz said.
Indigenous women are raising their voices and can no longer be ignored
Indigenous women have a vital role to play in the struggle over land,
and are increasingly overcoming a double discrimination to assert their
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz –
7 August 2015
As a teenager, I joined fellow indigenous activists on Luzon, the
Philippines’ largest island, to protest against the Chico dam project.
The scheme would have displaced roughly 300,000 indigenous people from
their ancestral lands. The leaders of the movement were all men, but
women were also on the frontline, risking their lives.
These were our lands too, and we women fought to defend them even when
our activities were criminalised by the Filipino government. We didn’t
give up until the government and the World Bank cancelled the project.
Since then, I have witnessed indigenous women around the world standing
up for their rights, demanding that their voices be heard and refusing
to back down.
Indigenous women face myriad challenges. We are often systematically
excluded from the decision-making processes that affect us, and we
contend with discrimination, poverty and violence. Indigenous men face
many of the same issues, but they are amplified for women, who face
discrimination for their gender as well as race.
Insecure land rights are at the root of many of these problems for
women. While indigenous people worldwide struggle to secure their
collective and individual land and resource rights, customary and
statutory laws typically restrict indigenous women’s access to land.
Even in countries that legally recognise equal rights, indigenous women
are less likely than men to hold titles to their land.
Indigenous women are often responsible for their families’ food
security, especially as more men move to cities, making resource
discrimination particularly hard on them. Many can only access land
through marriage, which limits their economic and personal choice and
makes it difficult for them to secure credit on their own.
Without secure rights, women are highly vulnerable to land-grabbing and
forced relocation by governments and corporations. Large scale land
grabs for rubber and palm oil plantations in Indonesia, for example,
transformed indigenous women from self-sufficient landowners to low-paid
factory and domestic workers.
Such land grabs are often accompanied by violence. Extractive industries
can bring with them increased crime and even sex trafficking, and women
may be threatened or harassed to coerce indigenous communities into
abandoning their lands. Those who resist land grabs often face
state-sanctioned violence. Gang rape, sexual enslavement, and murder of
women have all been used to control indigenous populations.
Corporations rarely take responsibility for these violations, and many
governments put corporate interests before those of indigenous women.
Language barriers, illiteracy and, most significantly, the refusal of
those in power to prosecute crimes against them make it difficult for
indigenous women to access justice. When Filipino armed forces killed a
28-year old indigenous female leader, Juvy Capion, for protesting
against a mine in her territory, the trial was dismissed.
Of course, endemic violence against indigenous women is not exclusively
related to land grabs – it is a persistent global problem. In Canada,
First Nations’ women are four times more likely to be murdered. My
predecessor James Anaya recommended that the government launch a
nationwide inquiry, but no action has yet been taken.
To address this issue as well as the numerous other challenges facing
indigenous women, our voices need to be heard at every level, from the
community to the international, on issues that affect us. We must be
made equal partners and our right to self-determination must be
recognised and respected.
Governments can begin by recognising indigenous women as co-owners,
alongside indigenous men, of the lands they collectively own and
cultivate. Companies and governments should stop using violence to quell
indigenous resistance and gain indigenous women’s free, prior, and
informed consent before making use of their lands.
After all, when land rights are secure, women are better equipped to
provide for themselves and their families. They earn up to 3.8 times
more income and devote more money to savings and education. Their
children are less likely to be malnourished, and they experience less
violence – including up to eight times less domestic violence.
Secure land rights also help indigenous women to continue their vital
role in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Indigenous women are
the main transmitters of indigenous cultural values and worldviews. Many
use traditional knowledge passed down through the generations to steward
the world’s remaining forests. Deforestation rates are dramatically
lower in forests managed by indigenous people and local communities, and
in many parts of the world, such as south-east Asia, it is women who are
primarily responsible for sustainable resource management.
Unfortunately, international initiatives and national strategies aimed
at mitigating climate change can also be a threat to indigenous women;
some have been kicked off their land in the name of conservation or
renewable energy projects. For mitigation and adaption strategies to
succeed, indigenous women must be made part of the decision-making
process and their conservation successes must be recognised and
supported. Secure land rights will also help prevent strategies such as
REDD+ from becoming yet another reason to dispossess women of their
Recognising an entire community’s right to its ancestral territories is
more effective than recognising land rights for individuals, as the
latter makes it easier for predatory industries and governments to steal
land piece by piece. But communities can be discriminatory as well. It
is important that laws recognising community tenure ensure women’s
rights. “Custom” does not grant immunity to those who marginalise and
We have come a long way since we stood up to the Filipino government,
but our voices are still too often ignored, even within our communities.
Governments, corporate actors, and international organisations must
recognise our role in the fight for global land rights, and the
contributions we make to preserve the world’s precious resources.
* Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is the UN special rapporteur on the rights of
indigenous peoples. She is a member of the Kankanaey Igorot people from
the Cordillera region of the northern Philippines
Andy Whitmore (Whit)
Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks)
Finspace, 225-229 Seven Sisters Road, London, N4 2DA
Ph: +44 (0)775 439 5597
“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the
intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell
Posted by: Andy Whitmore <firstname.lastname@example.org