Senator Loren Legarda
Sponsorship Speech for “Ethnic Origin Act of 2014”
Senate Bill No. 2426, Under Committee Report No. 81
Our indigenous peoples have shaped our story as a Filipino people—our music, arts and dance, our native knowledge and skills, our deeply held beliefs, our creativity, our sustainable ways of living with our physical environment and most important, our self-worth.
Despite these overwhelming contributions, we have admittedly underwhelmed them as the opportunities, privileges and rights embodied in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and in other legal instruments, have yet to be fully accorded.
Carrying out these commitments continues to be a challenge. The government must have an adequate understanding of our IPs and ICCs and be sensitive and responsive to their needs. An entry point to this is having a good grasp of population data based on ethnicity.
What is Ethnicity? It is a primary sense of belonging to an ethnic group or ethno-linguistic group. It involves ties that are reckoned by blood and traced through a family tree. As commonly understood, ethnicity refers to the members of the household’s identity of self-ascription, as one belonging to a group by blood.
Generally, ethnic grouping denotes genealogical and paternal lineage to any of the Philippines’ groups of native population. It also includes maternal lineage. As such, an indigenous person is anybody whose consanguinity is linked to the parents or any of the two, who is a member of an indigenous cultural community.
The Episcopal Commission on Tribal Filipinos (ECTF) estimates our IP/ICC population to be between 6.5 and 7.5 million, or 10 to 11 percent of the national population in 1995. It also identifies 40 ethno-linguistic groups. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) estimates the existence of 60 ethno-linguistic groups. The International Labour Organization (ILO) assesses the total population of the Philippine Indigenous Peoples to be between 12 and 15 million, or about 15 to 20 percent of the total national population. The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs calculates about 10 to 15 percent of the total population to be IPs/ICCs, while the Eco-Enterprises and Indigenous Peoples has an approximation of 12 million.
The population data on ICCs and IPs vary depending on the group handling the research or using the data. This reality compels us even more to obtain the accurate data.
In the 2010 national census, the variable “ethnicity” was included. It showed that out of the total population of 92.34 million Filipinos, IPs/ICCs are estimated to be between 10 and 20 percent.
Apart from having data on ICCs and IPs population, there is a need to have a system or set of relational databases to come up with timely, accurate and useful statistics on the ICCs and IPs. Such information will contribute to the effective implementation of the IPRA.
This proposed Ethnic Origin Act defines ethnicity and indigenous peoples or indigenous cultural communities, which shall be the basis for gathering data on ethnic origin.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), in coordination with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), will employ enumerators or deploy NCIP employees in gathering data on Ethnic Origin during the conduct of the national survey and national census.
In line with this, the NCIP must ensure that these enumerators all over the country, together with the barangay indigenous guides, will have adequate knowledge of the different IPs and ICCs in their area, their language, way of life, and culture. They should also know the proper manner of asking them culturally-sensitive questions.
Being counted, gives one an opportunity to be heard. Being counted with one’s cultural community, gives our indigenous peoples not only the opportunity to be heard but also paves the way towards development—one that ensures that they are included in the process, their rights are respected, and they are responsible as well.
With these considerations, I call on my colleagues in this august chamber for their support for this important measure.