The conservation of biological diversity goes beyond national politics or ideological beliefs, according to an esteemed member of the Philippine Congress' upper chamber. With this declaration, a joint public hearing of various Senate committees on March 4, 2015 recognized the role played by indigenous peoples (IPs) in conserving biodiversity, a little over three months after various members of the House of Representatives also passed a similar bill at the committee level.
The Senate Committee on Cultural Communities together with the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture and the Committee on Finance approved the passage of the bill which seeks to protect and strengthen Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs), as well as recognize the contribution of IPs in biodiversity conservation and establish a national ICCA registry.
"Biodiversity knows no ideologies, and no political boundaries," said Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Cultural Communities Committee and author of Senate Bill No. 2580.
Only last December 3, the House Committee on Natural Cultural Communities, led by committee chairperson Rep. Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato, approved its own version of the ICCA legislation, House Bill No. 4219. The House ICCA bill is authored by Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr., vice-chair of the House Natural Cultural Communities Committee.
Both congressional bills on a proposed ICCA Act aim to recognize the role of IPs not just in biodiversity conservation but also in climate change adaptation and mitigation, and in the protection of the country's various Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs.)
Representatives from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) attended the Senate public hearing.
Empowered with the recognition of their efforts in protecting and conserving the environment, various indigenous leaders from the Aeta of Zambales in Central Luzon as well as the Talaandig in Bukidnon and Manobo in the Davao-Cotabato region have already expressed their elation to the speedy approval of this ICCA legislation, both in the House and now in the Senate.
The recognition of ICCAs has been an advocacy of the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (PAFID), the national Bukluran ICCA Consortium, and the New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP) under the DENR-BMB, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). #