According to KASAPI (Filipino: Koalisyon ng mga Katutubo at Samahan ng Pilipinas; English: National Coalition of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines), Indigenous Communities Conserved Areas and Territories (ICCAs) are areas within the ancestral domains including lakes, coastal seas, forests and watersheds imbued with deep spiritual and cultural values for indigenous peoples.

ICCAs can also be defined as the manner through which indigenous peoples conserve and protect their areas or their interpretation of traditional resource management.

In support to ICCAs, a new project was launched at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center on October 25, 2016. The complete, albeit long, title of the project is Strengthening National Systems to Improve Governance and Management of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Conserved Areas and Territories. For brevity, it is the Philippine ICCA Project.

The event was attended by various project stakeholders from the different government agencies such as the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), civil society organizations (CSOs) and indigenous peoples (IPs), among others.

The Philippine ICCA Project intends to strengthen the conservation, protection and management of key biodiversity sites in the country by institutionalizing the ICCAs as a sustainable addition to the national protected area estate.

tbaguilatjrCong. Teddy B. Baguilat, Jr. Source: House of RepresentativesCongressman Teddy Baguilat, Jr., author of House Bill 115 or the Philippine ICCA Bill, keynoted the project launching.

“ICCA bill seeks to harmonize conflicting laws on environment and indigenous peoples,” he said.

IPs have been clamoring for a bill that recognizes and strengthens their rights to conserve and protect natural resources within their ancestral domains for a long time now.

“The indigenous peoples have the right to conserve and protect that area; whether it’s titled as an ancestral domain or not… ang importante is that you’re recognizing yung practice nung IPs [what’s important is that the practices of the IPs are recognized],” the Kiangan, Ifugao native added.

He further assured stakeholders that the development of the ICCA Bill would be participatory and that IPs would be consulted during the whole process.

Congressman Baguilat, who served as Ifugao governor for three consecutive terms (2001-2010), raised two significant points in pushing for the said bill: first, was to recognize and institutionalize the practice of conserving or protecting the indigenous peoples’ areas; and second, was to establish ICCA as a practice. However, he also admitted that the challenge now was how to popularize IPs rights.

Marami pa rin sa ating mga kababayan, hindi nila alam kung sino ang katutubo at kung nasaan sila.” [Many of our fellow countrymen are still not aware of who the Indigenous people are and where they are located.]”

Hopefully, more people will be involved in the discussions regarding IPs and communities, their culture, rights and also support the passage of the bill. #


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