By and large the tradition of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in relation to the environment is geared towards its preservation. It is for this reason that the values and culture of IPs become all the more crucial and must be considered in the same breath with natural resources management in direct contrast with the more progressive view that these are obsolete and incongruent with modern development initiatives.
On March 18, 2015, the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) conducted an orientation to introduce a new project, “Strengthening National Systems to Improve Governance and Management of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Conservation Areas and Territories” Project, also referred to as the Philippine ICCA Project. The ICCAs or Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities-Conserved Areas and Territories are “natural and modified ecosystems including significant biodiversity values, ecological services and cultural values voluntarily conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities and governed thru customary laws or other effective means.”
Development of the ICCA Project
Several national and sub-national consultations with stakeholders involved in indigenous cultural communities have been held beginning in the 2011 ICCA Symposium. Soon after, resulting from the First National Conference on the ICCAs in 2012 was the Manila Declaration, a document making explicit the inconvertible rights of IPs to lands and resources, and guidelines for IPs and other involved groups as to their government – overall, emphasizing the need to strengthen traditional governance systems. Thus, driven by the need to act on a national concern, inspired by the positive result of the New Conservation Areas in the Philippine project (New CAPP) and having been offered project support by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Philippine ICCA Project was brought to life by its initiators. Toward the end of 2015, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) approved the Project Document.
The Project has two components or outcomes: 1) Policy Harmonization and Implementation; and 2) Capacity Building for Effective Governance and Management of ICCAs. It will be implemented in seven (7) regions, covering ten (10) provinces, namely: Kalinga and Ifugao in CAR; Nueva Vizcaya in Region II, Aurora and Bataan in Region III, Palawan in Region IV-B, Bukidnon in Region X, North Cotabato on Region XII, and Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur in Region XIII. The total cost of the Project amounts to USD 6,776,723.
Initial activities for the Project have been conducted, such as the Inception Workshop on December 4-5, 2015 at Tagaytay City, the submission of the first quarter operational plan to UNDP, and the opening of Project Bank Account in accordance with the Bureau of Treasury Circular No. 02-2014. Meanwhile, the completion of the Project Board and Project Management Unit are underway.
Looking forward, the Project has a menu of activities in the pipeline: 1) forging a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and DENR on project implementation; 2) procuring Local Responsible Partners; 3) finalizing Work and Financial Plans (WFP) for CY 2016; 4) Project launching and production of IEC materials; and 5) convening the 1st Project Board meeting for approval of the 2016 WFP. #