Report shows vast tracts of PHL ancestral domain lands tied to destructive projects

A legal and policy research institution on Wednesday revealed that half of all Certificate of Ancestral Domain titles (CADTs) in the Philippines are embroiled in environmentally destructive projects.

In its 2022 State of the Indigenous Peoples Address (SIPA) Report, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) said the threats were found to cover at least 1.25 million hectares or equivalent to 21 percent of the total area of all CADTs.

“We found that half of all approved large-scale mining contracts and a whopping 87 percent of all large-scale logging projects are within or close to registered ancestral domains. Protecting ancestral domains and their natural defenses to extreme climate impacts is urgently needed if we are to rise above the climate emergency we are already experiencing now,” Atty. Mai Taqueban, executive director of LRC said in a news release.

The report further showed that despite their territories having an estimated forest ecosystem value of P1.1 trillion annually, three in every four indigenous persons (IP) remain among the poorest 40 percent of Filipinos.

IPs were also found to be facing significant socioeconomic gaps in accessing education, public health, water and electricity, and other public services.

“The exploitation and commoditization of nature is sadly an enduring framework to managing our natural resources. This is contrary to indigenous peoples’ conception of development. Not only has this marginalized them, it has also worsened their human rights situation, for many of them naturally oppose these projects. What they have been clamoring for is support for their own development plans, anchored in their right to self-determination,” Taqueban said.

The report highlighted the ongoing struggles of IP communities against extractive projects, such as the water woes experienced by the Tuwali people during the operations of the Oceanagold copper-gold project in Barangay Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. Protesting the depletion and pollution of water and its impacts on their farmlands, they have been repeatedly met with a history of violence and human rights violations.

“Indigenous peoples have declared they will pursue an IP agenda under the new government. They called for a harmonization of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act with natural resources and other laws affecting IPs. They also enjoined the government to fast track the issuance of CADTs. Indigenous peoples’ enjoyment of their rights is premised on their right to land,” Taqueban said.

SIPA 2022 was launched with the UN COP27 climate negotiations just around the corner, with the intent of urging both local and world leaders to support indigenous actions to address the climate crisis. 

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