Establishing Indigenous Community Conserved Areas in the Philippines

Published: 11 January 2016
Last edited: 09 July 2019
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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.


Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Temperate evergreen forest
Indigenous people
Protected area management planning
Terrestrial spatial planning
Traditional knowledge
Land and Forest degradation
Ecosystem loss
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.


indigenous and local communities in and around the project sites, local government.

How do the building blocks interact?

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.


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.


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.

Contributed by

Floradema Eleazar

Other contributors

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)