Legarda: Bolster support for Indigenous Culture, Empower Indigenous Peoples

August 9, 2021

In observance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (IP) and the Philippine National IP Day today, August 9, three-term Senator and now Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda renewed her call for stronger support and protection for indigenous peoples.

“Our indigenous communities have shaped our identity as Filipinos—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 importantly, our self-worth. Despite these overwhelming contributions, we have to give more opportunities and stronger support for and protection to our IPs as embodied in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA),” said Legarda, who sponsored the law that declared the 9th day of August as National IP Day to coincide with the international celebration (RA 10689).

Legarda, who was conferred the Dangal ng Haraya Award: Patron of Arts and Culture by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), said that, “the Indigenous Peoples Day is not only an excellent opportunity to highlight the rich and vibrant culture of our IPs but it also serves as a constant reminder for all of us to ensure that we provide the needed support for our IPs to strengthen their part in nation building and ensure that their rights, culture, heritage, and traditions are being protected.”

She has also filed several bills in support for indigenous peoples. Legarda has underscored the importance of the role of indigenous communities as partners in conservation and preservation of protected areas within their ancestral domains in House Bill 639 titled Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Conserved Areas Act. She has also filed House Bill 7806 titled the IP Resource Centers Bill, which will serve as venues to promote participatory programs and projects for IPs, to effectively deliver their responsibilities under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA). The three-term Senator also filed House Bill 7811, that seeks to safeguard the traditional rights of IPs and prevent possible abuses or the exploitation of our cultural heritage, fill in the gaps and apply the conventional forms of intellectual property, like copyright, royalty, and ownership.

Legarda noted that there have been many reported incidents wherein indigenous knowledge are being exploited and being utilized by local and foreign entities without proper consent as required by law. One of the most recent of these is the controversy involving Whang-Od Oggay, the oldest living mambabatok and Nas Daily, a popular vlogger.

“Out of respect for the art and culture of the Butbut community and the indigenous Filipinos as a whole, any vlogger, documentarist or individual who wants to learn or disseminate information about the traditions of our indigenous people should go through the proper process and engagement with the community and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in compliance with the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA). Not being able to do so is a form of disrespect to our culture and traditions and a disregard for the identity of our IPs and of the Filipino people which has been passed on from generations to generations. What we need is a law that would create a comprehensive cultural archive and inventory of all cultural properties of the different ethno-linguistic groups in the country to give out IPs full ownership of their cultural property,” said Legarda.

“Our culture, no matter how diverse, is what binds us together. As we move forward and pursue a path of progress, we should always include in public discourse the unique situation and needs of our IPs. We must ensure that they are protected and empowered as vital members of our nation because the culture and traditions that they hold is what define us as Filipinos,” Legarda concluded.***