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“Protect our local weaving industry” – IP weavers, advocates

February 18, 2021

MANILA, 18 February 2021 — House Deputy Speaker and Antique Representative Loren Legarda, together with resource speakers, highlighted the protection of indigenous peoples’ weaves and traditional cultural heritage against counterfeit and exploitation during the 35th episode of “Stories for a Better Normal: Pandemic and Climate Pathways,” with the topic, “Protect Indigenous Weaving!” shown via Facebook Live.

Indigenous weavers, advocates, and representatives from the government joined the online conversation, including Virginia Doligas, General Manager of Easter Weaving Room, Inc.; Anya Lim, Co-Founder of Anthill Fabric Gallery; Rosalina Salifad, a weaver based in La Trinidad, Benguet; Abigail Mae Bulayungan, President of PhilExpo CAR; Atty. Emerson Cuyo, Director of the Bureau of Copyright and Related Rights of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines; Abubacar Datumanong, Commissioner of Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts and Head of National Committee on Southern Cultural Communities of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA); Edwin Antonio, Secretary of Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts and Head of National Committee on Northern Cultural Communities of NCCA; Remedios Abgona, Chief of the Fiber Utilization And Technology Division of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA); Commissioner Jennifer Pia Sibug-Las of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) – Central Mindanao; and Dir. Julius Leaño, Chief of the Research and Development Division of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI).

“Ito’y napakahalaga dahil ito’y heritage ng ating mga katutubo at indigenous people. Ito’y sakop ng ating mga polisiya at mga batas, ang pagprotekta sa ating tangible at intangible heritage – yung mga resilient livelihoods ng ating artisans at weavers,” said Legarda.

Indigenous weavers and enterprises tackled about the impacts of the influx of machine-woven blankets and garments appropriating Cordillera weave patterns coming into the local market from abroad to the local weaving industry.

“It started last year, maraming nakapagsasabi sa amin na mayroong mga commercial cloth na ang hitsura ay kamukhang-kamukha ng design ng ating katutubong habi. Hindi po kami nagreact kaagad dahil wala naman po kami nakikita, but then this so-called fake materials started to flood Baguio, we were alarmed at doon na po namin napatunayan na may mga fabric material na commercial na printed siya na katutubong disenyo and we learned that these are importations from China,” said Virginia Doligas.

“Malalaman kaagad sa embroidery at texture kung ano ang printed at original. Pag printed po, manipis. Ang akala namin, ‘Buti na lang nakapasok yung mga gawa natin sa department store [dito sa Baguio]’, pero nung nahawakan po namin, replica pala, kasi manipis at printed lang siya,” said Rosalina Salifad.

“The counterfeit garment presence here in our province is affecting lots of our weavers. Karamihan sa mga tao na not really oriented sa original or genuine woven fabrics are resorting to having these replicas. Yung ibang weavers dito, nagkakaroon ng fear na while we still have limited trading e ito namang mga replicas ay marami na ang bumibili sa kanila, so ang nangyayari, nandoon yung fear namin na magle-lessen yung magiging market namin, which eventually also affects yung pag-source out namin sa mga weavers,” said Abigail Mae Bulayungan.

“Bigyan natin ng halaga ang mga weave. Ito ay hindi lang basta basta ingredients to fashion, hindi lang ito basta tela. Ito ay kwento ng kasaysayan, kwento ng ating pagka-Filipino. Ito ay ikino-consider ng ating mga ninuno na second skin. Bigyan natin ng halaga ang paghahabi more than just putting a prize on the weave. Ang tela ay gawa sa kamay, hindi gawa sa makina at maraming metikulosong proseso na pinagdadaanan ang paghahabi bago siya maging tela,” said Anya Lim.

Meanwhile, the representatives from the government presented their agencies’ measures to protect our local weaving designs from counterfeit.

“As of now po meron pong ginagawang profiling, still in progress, pino-profile po namin ang lahat ng traditional product ng different cultural communities nationwide, which is part of the NCCA Subcommittee on Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts sa kanilang yearly plan. Ito po ay isinasakatuparan ng different proponent po kasama po ang ating mga cluster heads,” said Commissioner Abubacar Datumanong of NCCA.

“Nahinto ang production dahil sa pandemic tapos biglang ito po ang kahaharapin ng mga Cordilleran weavers, na meron palang counterfeit products. Patuloy pa rin ang pag-aaral namin sa sitwasyon ngayon at meron kaming pinag-uusapan sa Subcommission on Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts na magkaroon sana ng inventory of the different textiles and designs of the different cultural communities para at least malaman din natin at magamit para sa pag-identify ng different textiles,” said Sec. Edwin Antonio of NCCA.

“There is an existing Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Agriculture and the IPO signed in 2018. Ang focus po ng MOU is to recognize and promote the protection of products bearing geographical indications, foster quality production, strengthen market position, enable equitable distribution of profit for rural communities and contribute to the overall economic growth and national development,” said Remedios Abgona of PhilFIDA.

“Geographical indication po ang tawag sa sign na ginagamit sa mga products that have a specific geographical origin, o di naman kaya ay merong qualities or reputation na maaaring ma-identify sa origin na yon. Sa ngayon po, wala tayong system of GI but it is protectable under our present IP code as a collective mark. Kung gusto ng ating mga indigenous groups to have a collective mark for their industrial weaves, pwede po silang mag-apply sa Intellectual Property Office,” said Atty. Emerson Cuyo of IPO.

“Alam natin na hindi lang weaving ang ating problema dito, kundi pati na rin yung sinasabi nating embroidery. Nagrereklamo rin po yung ating mga Manobos from CARAGA dahil yung Suyam nila ay lumabas na rin sa merkado na peke rin yung materyal na ginagamit at pinni-print na walang pahintulot sa ating mga komunidad. Dahil marami kaming natatanggap na mga reports na gumagawa yung mga enterprising individuals o companies natin ng mga pekeng materials na hindi nagpapaalam sa ating mga komunidad, bumuo kami ng Task Force kung saan ito ang mag-iimbestiga ng mga ganitong paglabag sa karapatan ng ating mga katutubo,” said Commissioner Jennifer Pia Sibug-Las of NCIP.

“The design component, the protection of design, is not necessarily under our mandate, but with our textile development capability, we already have our visualization app software where we could already be part of the documentation of the two-dimension patterns of all the textiles across the Philippines. We are actually populating our database in our textile product development center para po digitalized na yung ating mga designs,” said Dir. Julius Leaño of PTRI.

In order to strengthen the traditional property rights of IPs and protect their traditional cultural heritage, Legarda filed House Bill No. 7811 or An Act Safeguarding the Traditional Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The bill aims to prevent possible abuses or the exploitation of our cultural heritage, filling the gaps and apply the conventional forms of intellectual property, like copyright, royalty, and ownership.

Additionally, Legarda also 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 on counterfeit garments coming from abroad that have appropriated weaves from the Cordillera.

“The arts and crafts of our IPs require a very intensive process. We should not let their creative and artistic works bound by their cultural heritage be threatened by counterfeit imports,” Legarda concluded.###