Manila (ILO News): The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Embassy of Finland in Manila agreed to increase support to indigenous peoples in the Philippines, mainly the T’boli and Ubo tribes in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.
The agreement, signed on 27 February 2012 by H.E. Heikki Hannikainen, Ambassador of the Embassy of Finland and Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines, is aimed at sustaining initiatives and responding to the needs of indigenous peoples.
The ILO’s partnership with the Embassy of Finland started in 2000 covering several areas in the Philippines. Through the partnership, a community-based micro-enterprise was built in Palawan to process wild honey, cashew nuts, rice and corn. Indigenous people working in the enterprise identified and implemented projects, which included water systems, agricultural development and food production.
In Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, the T’boli tribe learned about their rights as indigenous peoples. Tribal houses were built to display and sell their products and to host traditional ceremonies, meetings and even as a place to settle conflicts and disputes.
Moreover, indigenous peoples in Lake Sebu learned to read, write and count in their own dialect. They were able to vote for candidates of their own choice during elections. A number of indigenous communities also acquired land through the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title.
The ILO and the Embassy of Finland partnership also supported a microfinance facility. Due to poverty and weak links to local and international markets, indigenous peoples are often forced to sell their products at a very low price.
“Our people were not merely treated as beneficiaries. They were involved in planning and identifying their needs, even in implementing the project. The project helped us to develop our community”, said Datu Ponciano Bandalan, tribal leader of Barangay Bakdulong, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Datu is a royal title conferred to respected leaders or members of royal families.
The ILO and Embassy of Finland partnership will continue to use the community-driven participatory approach, which provides indigenous peoples with the opportunity to take the “driver’s seat” in the process of their own advancement and sustainable management of their ancestral domains. The approach is consistent with the basic principles of the ILO Convention (No. 169) on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), which embodies the national policy of the Philippines on indigenous peoples.
Under the newly signed agreement, the Embassy of Finland will provide funds for indigenous peoples’ community projects through its local development co-operation facility, while the ILO will give technical support to project implementation. In providing technical support, the ILO will draw lessons of good practice from its partnership with indigenous peoples in the Philippines since the early 1990s.
For further information please contact:
Ms Minette Rimando
ILO Country Office for the Philippines
Tel: +63 2 580 9905 or 580 9900