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Friday, June 14, 2024

Indigenous Filipinos face challenges

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A World Bank report underscores the urgent need to improve living standards for indigenous peoples (IPs) in the Philippines.

The report titled “No Story, No Data: Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines” finds that increased access to water, sanitation, education, health care and economic opportunities, while preserving cultural identities, could significantly improve IPs well-being.

It underscores the importance of data collection and faster processing of legal land titles. IPs have collective ancestral ties to the lands and resources where they live or from which they’ve been displaced.

According to census data, about 9.4 million people in the Philippines identify as indigenous, representing roughly 8.7 percent of the population. Many live in geographically disadvantaged areas.

The report suggests that enhanced development through improved connectivity and other interventions could accelerate poverty reduction within these communities. Collecting disaggregated data by ethnicity would better identify IPs and other minorities, leading to more effective poverty reduction strategies and social program targeting.

“Understanding the interplay between ethnicity, gender, and geography is crucial to comprehending the challenges faced by indigenous peoples, which are closely linked to their locations,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

“Indigenous peoples are demonstrably disadvantaged in several key well-being aspects compared to the non-indigenous population, including education, labor, access to productive opportunities, and gender equality,” said Diop.

The 2023 Indigenous Peoples Survey reveals that about 59 percent of IPs perceive themselves as poor, compared to 52 percent of non-indigenous Filipinos. Nearly half identify education, health, access to clean water and social assistance as the most pressing government priorities for improving their welfare.

Food insecurity is also more prevalent among IPs, with 51 percent reporting food poverty compared to 45 percent of non-indigenous Filipinos. Hunger is a concern for both groups, with around 37 percent of IPs and 36 percent of non-IPs experiencing hunger in the past three months.

Educational attainment lags among IPs compared to non-indigenous populations. Fewer IPs progress beyond primary school, complete high school, or pursue post-secondary education. Those with only primary education often find work in agriculture or self-employment.

Despite these challenges, nearly 90 percent of IPs report pride in their identity, and over 70 percent have a strong sense of belonging to the Philippines.

The report recommends continued efforts to strengthen and protect the legal recognition of IP rights to ancestral domains.

“Land is fundamental to indigenous identity, culture and livelihood,” said World Bank senior social development specialist Carlos Perez-Brito. “Protecting IP land rights is crucial to addressing poverty and conflict in the country.”

The report says while certificates of ancestral domain titles (CADTs) have been granted for roughly 20.5 percent of the Philippines’ land area, processing is slow. Overlapping land management mandates, conflicting interests and limited resources hinder the process.

Data gaps also impede understanding the complexity and diversity of IP populations in the Philippines. The report recommends establishing standardized IP data collection guidelines, incorporating IP indicators in national surveys, and including ethnicity variables in government statistics.

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