National Indigenous Peoples Cultural Summit 2014

September 2, 2014

Keynote Speech of Senator Loren Legarda

National Indigenous Peoples Cultural Summit 2014

Museum of the Filipino People – September 2, 2014


It is my distinct pleasure to speak before you today as we open the 2nd National Indigenous Peoples Cultural Summit.


I am happy to see our IPs from different communities gather as one. This is a testament of unity amidst cultural diversity, because even if we come from different indigenous communities, our being Filipinos binds us together.
Today and in the next three days of intercultural exchange, we celebrate the stories of our IPs as we aim to find better solutions to long-standing concerns.


We have 110 IP groups in the Philippines, with each community possessing its own traditional knowledge that had been passed on from one generation to the other.


Documents from the NCIP that were submitted to the World Intellectual Property Organization during the 1999 Roundtable on Intellectual Property and Traditional Knowledge held in Geneva, showed that traditional knowledge covers vast subjects including arts and crafts, music and literature, health care, agriculture, forestry and fishing, mining, and architecture. Many of us do not realize that various aspects of our modern lifestyle originated from traditional practices.


Given the bulk of this traditional knowledge covering almost all aspects of life, our indigenous communities should now be rich in economic terms, if the benefits of bringing to the mainstream these practices and intellectual properties, which they have generously shared with the world, actually flowed back to them.


We all recognize the fact that the concerns of our IPs have yet to be fully addressed.


The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) was enacted into law in 1997 to give effect to the constitutional recognition and cognizance to our Filipino IPs. The law provided for the creation of the NCIP as its implementing agency. Eventually, various national, regional, grassroots and non-government organizations were established, all geared towards their recognition, promotion and well-being. Likewise, numerous international treaties, conventions and declarations with similar objectives were entered into by the government. We have supported a historic United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which articulated their individual and collective rights.


Despite concerted efforts exerted by the government, in partnership with various private organizations and adequate financial support from international communities, still our IPs remain a marginalized sector of our society. Basic services remain wanting in most geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas. Further, the reported serious human rights violations, displacement from ancestral domain and destruction of natural environment and cultural values are among serious concerns.


It is for these reasons that we continue to fight for policies and programs that would give our IPs the respect, recognition and opportunities due them.


In coordination with the NCIP, I filed Senate Bill No. 2209 that will create resource centers for IPs. The centers shall serve as access centers to enhance delivery of basic, social, technical and legal services. It shall be composed of the following service areas, namely: Statistical Service Area, Human Development Index Service Area and Domains Management Service Area.
In relation to this, we also recognize the need to determine exactly where indigenous communities are located and exactly how many are our IPs. While the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) has already included the ethnicity and ethno-linguistic variable in its national census, we need to come up with a definition of ethnicity that is agreeable to all sectors concerned. This is what impelled me to file Senate Bill No. 534 or the Ethnic Origin Act. It is my hope that we finally acquire accurate and disaggregated data on our IPs so we can adequately address their needs.


As a means to protect our indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage, I have also filed Senate Bill No. 669 or theTraditional Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, which seeks to make an inventory of all cultural properties and mandates the payment of royalties to our IPs for the use of these cultural properties.


As we seek ways in effectively protecting the intellectual property and traditional knowledge of our IPs, I take note of an initiative by our State Universities and Colleges in the Cordillera Administrative Region to document the indigenous knowledge systems and practices in agriculture and environmental protection in the Cordilleras, a project which we hope to replicate in all regions.


We likewise continue to engage Filipinos in a cultural renaissance through awareness programs. Earlier, you had a cultural tour here at the National Museum. At the fourth floor of this building are exhibits that speak about our traditions, natural heritage and indigenous knowledge.


The Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles is the first permanent textile gallery in the country to present ethnic, ceremonial, and heirloom garments and tapestries woven from indigenous textiles using traditional looms, as well as more recent adaptations. Complementing these displayed artifacts in climate-controlled vitrines or worn by mannequins are the Lecture Series on Philippine Textiles and Indigenous Knowledge, which bring members of IP communities to demonstrate their weaving practices, as well as scholars to share their research on these subject matters to the National Museum.


Another permanent exhibition is Baybayin: Ancient and Traditional Scripts of the Philippines, which explores our tangible heritage and vibrant ancient script still used by some indigenous communities in Mindoro and Palawan today. Realizing the urgency of preserving this unique writing system, I have filed a measure mandating government offices, departments and agencies to use Baybayin in their official logos.


In closing, I wish to invite everyone to reach out to our IPs and to take that extra step towards knowing more about our heritage and be more familiar with the ways of our IPs.


To our brothers and sisters who belong in indigenous cultural communities, I urge you to continue to fight for your rights and to always protect our natural and cultural heritage.


Individually and collectively, we have to save what has been left for our IPs. We have to fight for the recognition of their worthwhile contributions.


The ways and means of our IPs may be ancient as to the standards of modern society, but everything that we have now is not a product borne out of the minds of people from this generation alone, but a mere reflection of the creativity, resourcefulness and passion of those people who have lived long ago creating their own identity, building a sustainable community, forming unique practices, surviving with their own rich culture, passing it on to their children, and generously sharing it with others.


To all of us who have gained so much from this ingenuity, perhaps, it would not be too much to give our IPs the fitting recognition that they deserve.


I hope that this National IP Cultural Summit leads us to a clearer path on how we can confront the challenges and effectively build policies to protect the knowledge systems and practices of our indigenous peoples, provide them with more opportunities for growth and development, and to further promote our culture and heritage.


Thank you.