Philippine tribal welfare is linked to education, health, and economics

And data, speedy processing of legal land titles should benefit vulnerable people

MANILA, May 27, 2024 – Improving access to drinking water and sanitation, education, health services and economic opportunities for indigenous peoples can significantly improve their quality of life while preserving their cultural identities, says a World Bank report released today.

More data and faster processing of legal land titles will further benefit indigenous peoples, who share common ancestral ties to the lands and natural resources they live on, or who have been displaced. ReportNo Story, No Data: Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines, Says

About 9.4 million people living in the Philippines identify as indigenous, about 8.7% of the population, according to census data, and many more live in geographically disadvantaged areas. Enhancing the development of these regions through improved connectivity and other interventions can accelerate poverty reduction within these communities. In addition, more racially-disaggregated data to clearly identify indigenous peoples and other ethnic minorities could help target poverty reduction strategies and social programs, the report said.

„It is important to understand the gaps of race, gender and geography to understand the challenges faced by indigenous peoples,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. It is clear that the tribals are at a disadvantage in many important respects.”

According to the Tribal Census conducted in 2023, about 59% of the tribal people consider themselves „poor”, while 52% do not identify as tribal. Half of them think that education, health, clean water and social assistance are the most important concerns that the government should address to improve their well-being.

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About 51% of tribals consider themselves „food poor”, which is higher than the 45% reported by non-tribals. Both groups experience hunger, with about 37% of tribals and 36% of non-tribals reporting incidents of hunger in the past three months.

Compared to non-indigenous people, tribal people also lag behind in educational metrics: a smaller percentage progress beyond primary school, complete high school or attain secondary education. People with only primary education often seek employment in agriculture or self-employment.

Despite these challenges, nearly 90% of tribals are proud of their identity, and more than 70% have a strong sense of belonging to the nation.

Continuing to strengthen and protect the rights of indigenous peoples through legal recognition of their ancestral rights is another way to promote their welfare.

„For indigenous peoples, land is a fundamental aspect of their identity, culture and livelihood, so protecting indigenous peoples’ land rights is an important step in addressing poverty and conflict in the country,” said World Bank Senior Community Development Specialist Carlos Perez. Britto.

Although certificates of ancestral domain titles – the formal recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights to their ancestral lands – have been approved for approximately 20.5% of the country’s total land area, implementation has been slow. Overlapping and conflicting land management mandates and scarce resources have stalled the process.

Data gaps also hinder understanding the complexity and diversity of indigenous peoples in the Philippines. The report recommends establishing standardized guidelines for data collection on indigenous peoples, incorporating indigenous population indicators in national surveys, and including racial disparities in government statistics, among other actions.

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