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Loren: IPs and local communities need stronger protection for their intellectual and traditional property rights

February 18, 2021

The 35th episode of the Stories for a Better Normal, hosted by three-term Senator now deputy speaker Loren Legarda, highlighted the need for stronger protection for intellectual and traditional property rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. The episode also promoted the appreciation for traditional and ecosystem-based livelihoods with the support of indigenous weaving advocates and national government agencies.

The online conversation was participated in by Virginia Doligas, general manager of Easter Weaving Room Inc.; Anya Lim, co-founder of ANTHILL Fabric Gallery; and Atty. Emerson Cuyo, director of Bureau of Copyright and Related Rights of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPO) as they discussed how to preserve and protect the local weaving patterns against counterfeit products and, more importantly, how to help IP groups protect their intellectual and traditional property rights.

Representatives from concerned government agencies such as the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PHILFIDA), and the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) were also present in the webinar.

Legarda, a staunch advocate of culture and arts, and the rights of indigenous peoples, has long proposed the protection of the intellectual property and traditional knowledge of the IPs since 2011 when she first filed Senate Bill No. 2831, or the Traditional Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

She then refiled the said bill in the House of Representatives in 2019 as House Bill No. 7811. It aims to 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.

Aside from enacting legislation, the former Senator also conceptualized and supported the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino Travelling Exhibition, which promoted the Philippine indigenous fibers and handwoven textiles and established linkages with textile experts all over the world, creating economic opportunities for Filipino weavers and embroiderers.

During Hibla’s 12th exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2019, Mr. Francis Gurry, former Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) lauded the Exhibition, saying that, “this was (is) an extremely interesting exhibition; it concerns special technique in pineapple and silk to make special fabric that we all associate with the Philippines, a good combination of old world and new world expertise.”

For his part, during the opening of the exhibit in Geneva, Ambassador Evan P. Garcia, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Other International Organizations, stressed the role of the international community in protecting traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, stating that WIPO was one proof of the strength of multilateralism in addressing the unique needs of indigenous peoples such as its intellectual property. Moreover, former Director General of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) Josephine Santiago shared how the Philippine government protected the traditional knowledge of IPs, such as the grant of collective mark for T’nalak Tau Sebu, which is a cloth made of abaca fibers and natural dyes designed with intricate patterns crafted from the weavers’ dream that carries spiritual meaning.

With this morning’s discussion, the weekly online show also conceptualized by Legarda gave a new platform for the indigenous weaving advocates and concerned government agencies to share their efforts in protecting the knowledge systems and practices of the IPs.

Legarda also mentioned that she filed House Resolution No. 1549, urging the House Special Committee on Creative Industry and Performing Arts to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the issue of counterfeit garments coming from abroad that have appropriated weaves from the Cordillera.

“The arts and crafts of our IPs require a very tedious and painstaking process. The Hibla Travelling Exhibition helped our weaving communities gain popularity and appreciation by the international community. But such exposure and opportunity also serve as a reminder that we should also act expeditiously and more effectively in protecting the creative process, skills, design and crafts of our indigenous peoples. We should not let their creative and artistic works, which embody history, art, culture and heritage be threatened by counterfeit imports,” Legarda concluded.***