Leaders and representatives of indigenous peoples (IP) shared their perspectives on the importance of IP communities in biodiversity conservation during Haribon Foundation’s “Paninindigan sa Karapatan ng mga Katutubo, susi sa malusog na Kapaligiran” online seminar last October 23, 2020.
The webinar sought to amplify the voices of IPs and provide them with a platform to voice out their concerns amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Elma Bauzon, Tribal Secretary for the Pakwan-Manobo Indigenous Cultural Community, said IPs are the frontliners in biodiversity conservation whose duty to protect nature comes from their dependence on natural resources.
“Hindi lang tao ang nabubuhay doon, marami ding wild animals ang naka-depende ang buhay [doon]. Lahat tayo ay magkaugnay eh; mula sa mga insekto hanggang sa mga hayop pati mga tao—magkakaugnay tayo,” Bauzon said during the webinar.
The webinar also highlighted how acknowledging the culture and heritage of indigenous peoples communities helps protect the rights of IPs and the environment.
For Marcelino Tena, President of the Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta/Dumagat at Remontado Na Ipinagtatanggol at Binabaka ang Lupaing Ninuno, culture serves as both their identity and catalyst to fight for their rights.
The IP leader said that by upholding their culture, they are also defending their birthright to their ancestral lands and their rights as caretakers of the environment.
Acting Provincial Officer Ordonio Rocero Jr. of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Caraga echoed Tena’s statement and said that the culture of IPs are synonymous to their identity and is unique to them.
The webinar reiterated the need to continue protecting and prioritizing the needs and rights of indigenous peoples communities to help them uphold their culture and live sustainably.
Atty. Arthur K. Herman, Regional Legal Officer for the NCIP Region 4-A, shard that it is not enough to simply appreciate the culture of IPs. He emphasized that the government should consult indigenous peoples in policymaking.
“Dapat kapag gagawa tayo ng isang plano—isang batas o polisiya—kasama natin ang mga katutubo dahil may mga traditional systems sila na dapat sundin,” the legal officer added.
The webinar was part of Haribon’s Indigenous Peoples’ month celebration and #GoingViral webinar series that aims to promote the importance of biodiversity conservation and its relation to human health. For more information on our Forest Governance Project, click here.