PHILIPPINES: ILO and Finnish embassy ink deal helping indigenous peoples

By Jovan Cerda ( Updated February 29, 2012 02:12 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Embassy of Finland in Manila signed an agreement last Monday to increase support to indigenous peoples in the Philippines, a statement released Wednesday noted.

The deal between Finnish Ambassador Heikki Hannikainen and Lawrence Jeff Johnson, director of the ILO country office for the Philippines, aims at responding to the needs of the T’boli and Ubo tribes in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, ILO said.

Starting in 2000, ILO said the partnership built a community-based micro-enterprise in Palawan that processes wild honey, cashew nuts, rice and corn. Indigenous people involved in the enterprise also identified and implemented projects like 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,” ILO said.

It added that “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 to help the indigenous peoples who are forced to sell products at a very low price due to poverty and links to local and international markets, it said.

“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,” Datu Ponciano Bandalan, tribal leader of Barangay Bakdulong, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, was quoted as saying in the statement.

ILO said the partnership between the two organizations uses the community-driven participatory approach, providing the indigenous peoples the chance “to take the ‘driver’s seat’ in the process of their own advancement and sustainable management of their ancestral domains.”

It added that the approach is in line with the basic principles of the ILO Convention (No. 169) on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, which reflects the Philippines’s policy on indigenous peoples.

Source: The Philippine Star

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