Philippines senator calls for tribal peoples' law to be ratified

A Palawan climbing an aerial bridge made of rattan canes to reach a ginuqu tree canopy.
A Palawan climbing an aerial bridge made of rattan canes to reach a ginuqu tree canopy.
© Dario Novellino

A leading Filipino senator has called on her government to ratify the international law on tribal peoples, ILO Convention 169.

Loren Legarda told a senate committee that indigenous peoples’ rights in the Philippines are often ignored, despite constitutional recognition, national legislation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She said, ‘The ratification of [ILO 169] will be beneficial to indigenous peoples because it will give teeth to the implementation of these rights.’

As a popular and influential senator, Ms Lagarda’s call adds weight to the demands of tribal peoples in the Philippines who have been urging the government to ratify.

ILO 169 is the only international law on indigenous and tribal peoples, recognizing their land rights and rights to self-determination. Twenty-two countries have ratified the Convention so far, with Nicaragua and the Central African Republic both signing up earlier this year. If the Philippines ratifies the convention it will be the first country in South East Asia to do so.

Despite an Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, which came into law in the Philippines in 1997, the rights of tribal peoples in the country continue to be ignored. Governments that ratify ILO 169 are legally bound by it, giving tribal peoples a way to seek redress if their rights are violated.

The more countries that ratify ILO 169 the more force it has. Survival is calling on all countries to ratify the Convention.