Indigenous land conflict increased by 70,300 hectares in 2023 — report

James Relativo - Philstar.com
Indigenous land conflict increased by 70,300 hectares in 2023 � report
This file photo shows members of national minority groups symbolically sentence American troops, represented by the chicken, to death.
Philstar.com / Efigenio Christopher Toledo, File

MANILA, Philippines — A legal and policy research institution revealed a rise in conflicts within indigenous territories, coupled with an uptick in instances of violations against the rights of indigenous people.

The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) shared in its 2023 State of Indigenous Peoples Address (SIPA 2023) Report their findings, emphasizing a surge in land and environmental conflicts.

"We found a net increase of over 70,345 hectares of ancestral domains facing land and environmental conflicts, a +6% increase compared to last year," said LRC campaigns support and linkages coordinator Leon Dulce in a release.

"Mining expansion is the main driver with an additional 223,000 hectares approved since last year."



The report cited data from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), highlighting low success rates in recognizing and safeguarding ancestral domains.

LRC stated that only 33% of the commissions target of 1,531 ancestral domains and claims were issued Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs) and Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles (CALTs), and only 30% of a targeted 980 Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plans (ADSDPPs) were assisted and accomplished.

"26 years after the passage of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, the government’s adherence to the Regalian Doctrine continues to undermine its meaningful implementation even with no less than the 1987 constitution’s guarantees to indigenous peoples’ right," Dulce said.

"As a result, ancestral domains are not granted its due respect over and above other land and resource uses."

'Increase of rights abuses'

The report noted a surge in alleged human rights violations, documenting at least 45,070 affected IPs. This marks a 62% increase compared to the previous SIPA Report in 2022.

The report highlighted an incident involving the alleged prevention of the indigenous Menuvu Dulangan community members from constructing a community-based off-grid solar power facility. The impediment was reportedly caused by the Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary (SCAA) units, purportedly associated with the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) plantation in South Central Mindanao.

The facility would have been the first time for the tribe to have electrification, providing light to 40 of their households in Sitio Makadafeng, Barangay Legoden, Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat.

"This is a direct violation of their right. The Menuvu Dulangan have the right to manage their ancestral domain and be able to self-determine their energy regime," said Ryan Roset, senior legal fellow of the LRC.

The report comes after watchdog Global Witness identified the Philippines as the "deadliest place in Asia" for individuals defending their land and the environment for the 10th consecutive year.

The LRC likewise urged the Philippine government to respond to priority areas of action by hastening the issuance of CADTs to "protect indigenous territories from extractive and destructive projects" to enable the exercise of their right to self-determination.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change Ian Fry lasy November recommended to the state the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) after complaints of torture, disappearance and extrajudicial killings of IPs. 

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año earlier criticized Fry's recommendations, stating that his report was "incomplete."

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