Establishing Indigenous Community Conserved Areas in the Philippines

Full Solution
Menuvú children in traditional dress

The UNDP supported GEF financed New Conservation Areas in the Philippines project (NewCAPP) has worked with the Government and local and indigenous communities to create new conservation areas as a strategy for expanding coverage of key biodiversity areas in the PA network. The project supported indigenous communities to map, inventory, formally establish and manage Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) in their traditional territories.

Last update: 02 Oct 2020
Challenges addressed
Land and Forest degradation
Ecosystem loss
Changes in socio-cultural context
Social conflict and civil unrest
Lack of food security
need for preservation of tribal knowledge and culture, long-standing tribal conflict The Philippines PA system is currently under represented in terms of coverage and location of KBAs and BD corridors. Because the country has a unitary approach to the establishment of PAs through national gazettement only, the ICCAs was designed to diversify the portfolio of PAs to include those considered sacred and designated conserved areas by indigenous peoples.
Scale of implementation
Temperate evergreen forest
Indigenous people
Local actors
Traditional knowledge
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Terrestrial spatial planning
Southeast Asia
Summary of the process
Indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ conserved territories and areas harbor significant biodiversity, ecological and cultural value. Many of the Philippines unique and threatened species and important ecosystems lie outside the country’s protected areas and are threatened by habitat degradation, land conversion, over harvesting of resources, mining and infrastructure development. In 2009, about 65% of the country’s 128 ‘key biodiversity areas’ (KBAs) – of global importance for biodiversity – lacked formal protection. In order to bridge this gap one of the solutions was the expansion of the national PA system. The project supports indigenous communities to conserve their ancestral domain lands; to map, inventory, formally establish and manage ICCAs in their traditional territories. These conservation areas expand coverage of key biodiversity areas in the protected area system and place resources in the hands of local and indigenous people. The project is implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources through its Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.
Building Blocks
Participatory mapping and inventorying
Participatory mapping and inventorying of the indigenous communities’ traditional territories. Full documentation and mapping of the ICCA and the ancestral domain, identifying environmentally critical areas using slope, elevation, land cover and land use GIS data was carried out. Capacity building is made part of the process, as the indigenous youth and community leaders are active part of the process - they were trained on use of GPS, inventory and 3D mapping. Community conservation plans are developed with the participation of the entire community, based on the results of mapping, documentation of traditional knowledge and practices on conservation; as well as analyses of threats to both culture that sustains the resource and outside influences Once completed, the IP community engages with other stakeholders such as the local governments, other tribes in the locality, PA Managers, government agencies to present their community conservation plans, seek recognition and support.
Enabling factors
The Philippines has a strong law which recognises the rights and domains of indigenous peoples (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act) which provide the enabling framework for engagement with indigenous peoples groups. The protected area law - the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), likewise respect the rights of indigenous peoples within protected areas.
Lesson learned
1. It is important that the greater indigenous community groups in the Philippines understand the concept of ICCA before pilot implementation in selected sites. In this way, there is broad support from the sector on the approach, improve confidence building and trust in an environment where the establishment of nationally gazetted PAs have alienated some sections of the indigenous peoples. 2. The local community should have strong ownership of the processes, with guidance from a support organization that is fully trusted by the community. 3. Engagement with neighbouring IP groups and local governments is important, to ensure coherence in planning, and avoid misunderstanding. This way, a coalition of support is developed in the process. 4. Support to implementation and strengthening of Ip communities is important to sustain implementation of community conservation plans.
Community conservation agreement
This involves documentation of traditional practices of communities that reinforce conservation, including the location of sacred sites, burial grounds, spiritual sites and other areas which are designated by the IP community for conservation purposes and sustainable use. An analysis of the threats to sustainability of these areas within the domains of the IP community is then made, through analysis of trends in resource use, mapping of resources, and other indicators selected by the community. These information and analyses then form the basis for developing the community conservation plan and agreements with neighbouring IP communities. The plan also specifies the actions needed to address the erosion of traditional practices and values that served to undermine the sustainability of the community's conserved areas. Planning and consensus building are iterative processes which involve the entire community, and led by the Elders recognised for their leadership and valued history of their culture and tradition.
Enabling factors
Commitment of local host community and coherence among community members is important to complete the community conservation plan. This should be based on a good understanding of the issues and trends, the threats to sustainability of ICCAs, and determination of factors that are within and outside the influence of the community. A well seasoned facilitator group, fully trusted by the community is essential to the entire process.
Lesson learned
Build capacity and advocate for ICCAs at multiple levels. Sub National workshops were held involving 185 indigenous people, which galvanized the understanding of ICCAs among the IP communities. Consensus throughout local, regional and national level was achieved, which further helped in enhanced support for ICCAs and increase interest for documentation and registration of ICCA in various sites.
Declaration of ICCA
Declaration and demarcation of the agreed area as an ICCA. The declaration is an important ceremony of the community, which involves the participation of all community members, representatives from government agencies and local governments, and other outside organizations who can potentially support the ICCA, and who have important roles to play in respecting the desire and land use of the community as specified in the plan. The ICCAs established and the accompanying documentation or case study are then submitted to the UNEP WCMC Global Registry of ICCAs for registration in the international database. The declaration and the registration effectively confers formal recognition of the community's ICCAs.
Enabling factors
A fully empowered community, well aware of their resources and committed to conservation and preservation of traditional values and culture is essential to the community declaration process. Recognition by other indigenous peoples of the ICCA is essential to ensure there is respect and support to the implementation of community conservation plans.
Lesson learned
Settlement of tribal conflicts, respect for IP rights is essential for full recognition of the ICCA declared ICCAs. The ICCA Declaration can be an effective instrument for garnering support and commitment by potential partners towards strengthening of community capacities to sustain their ICCAs.

Empowerment of tribal identity/communal pride. Establishing ICCAs can preserve tribal culture and traditional resource rights as rituals and sacred activities on their sacred land. Conserving natural resources held in these lands also helps secure livelihoods, medicines, food, and materials for traditional houses for current and future generations. Establishing ICCAs enhances conservation efforts. Philippine tribes were given international recognition for their role as the project helped bring about effective legislative protection and sustainable management of its protected areas. So far two pilots have been documented, mapped and registered at UNEP/WCMC Global Database. Six other ICCA sites are in various stages of documentation, mapping and research. Strengthening stakeholder capacity. Participatory planning and stakeholder interaction helped in settlement of long-standing tribal conflict between two tribes. A dispute for the claim of forestland that overlapped with their ancestral domains was settled by the intervention of the ICCA concept and series of dialogues with both tribes.

indigenous and local communities in and around the project sites, local government.
The Banao Indigenous Community Conserved Area (ICCA) The ‘Bogis’ or ancestral domain of the Banaos is located in the Province of Abra. The bogis is generally bounded by natural permanent land marks like ridges, rivers, peaks, origin of water flow, big stones and large trees. The present approximate land area is 23,806 hectares covering three barangays: Barangay Talalang - 7,060 hectares Barangay Pantikian - 5,974 hectares, and Barangay Balbalasang - 10,772 hectares. The ancestral territorial boundaries of the Banaos were inherited from Manakem (forefathers) that encompasses all the resources including in the periphery of communal forests and watersheds which is the source of Saltan River flowing down to Pinukpuk Municipality. It also includes the communal pasture land inside Banao community. The Role of Banao Community in the Protection of BBNP. The Banao Ancestral domain is a heritage of the Banao Tribe. It has defined them as a people and their culture crafted around it. It has sustained and provided everything that they needed to live self-reliantly and sufficiently. It provides abundant clean waters to many villages upstream and downstream for centuries even beyond what memory can recall. The Banao peoples significantly contribute their share to temper the adverse effects of climate change long before government and advocates have called for actions. These pushed them to hold on to their age-old indigenous systems in managing their resources. The Banaos have their own traditional and indigenous system of protection and conservation of their communal watersheds, communal forests, rivers and endangered plants and wild animals, rare trees and critical resources that are within their domain. It is called ‘Lapat’ or ‘Palit’ which means ‘prohibit’ or ‘regulate’ and according to them is a ‘legacy’ they inherited from their fore-fathers. The general purpose of Lapat is to protect a prescribed communal watersheds (u-od), forests (ginufat), rivers (wangwang), grazing lands (pasto), swidden farms (uma) within the ancestral territory or bogis. It is also to protect rare or important plant or animal species from diminishing or becoming scarce, whether they be in communal or private lot, as they are critical to the sustainability.
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Floradema Eleazar
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)