The road to empowerment

Type Journal Article
Title The road to empowerment
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2007
ndigenous peoples in the Philippines have experienced a long history of discrimination.
Rejecting foreign domination and acculturation, they were left out from mainstream
development and were largely excluded from socio-economic and political participation
in mainstream society.
Most of them are found in rural areas and hinterlands, where some 70 per cent of
the poor also reside. Eking out a living as subsistence farmers, hunters, fishermen or forest dwellers,
they account for a high proportion of the poor and are often confined to ancestral domain areas
that are exposed to environmental degradation. In the Philippines, as in other countries, poverty
can be perceived as the result of a combination of factors, including discrimination in employment
and livelihood. Unless contained and reversed, poverty will continue breeding prejudice and
The Philippine Constitution of 1987 and several laws contain extensive provisions that
proscribe discrimination in employment and call for equal opportunity and treatment in employment
and occupation. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 and its Implementing Rules stand
out as a progressive piece of legislation. This is the first time that a state in Asia explicitly expressed
the rights of IPs to their ancestral domain, to self-determination and to the free exercise of their
culture. These laws bear testimony to the national commitment to right past wrongs and to place IPs
on an equal footing - politically, economically and socially - with all other Filipino citizens.
In recent decades the human and labor rights of indigenous and tribal peoples have been
widely discussed at national and international levels. In broad terms, IPRA reflects the concepts and
definitions embodied in UN and ILO key Conventions related to equality, non-discrimination and
decent work (see Table 1). It is interesting to note the high degree of convergence between the general
principles on human and labor rights between the ILO Convention No. 169 and IPRA. Hence, the
IPRA law can be seen as an expression of political will to recognize and promote the human, civic and
labor rights of IPs in line with international standards and instruments. Furthermore, if the Philippine
Senate ratifies ILO Convention No. 169, this would provide a new momentum to concerted efforts
to overcome discrimination and deprivation of IPs in the future.

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