Philippines Indigenous Welfare Tied to Education, Health, Economy

More Data, Speedier Processing of Legal Land Rights Needed to Benefit Vulnerable Populations

Manila, May 27, 2024 - Increasing Indigenous Peoples' access to water and sanitation, education, health services, and economic opportunities, while still preserving their cultural identities, could significantly improve their living standards, a World Bank report released today says.

More data and speedier processing of legal land titles would further benefit Indigenous Peoples, who share collective ancestral ties to the lands and natural resources where they live, or from which they have been displaced, the report, No Story, No Data: Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines, says.

Approximately 9.4 million people identified as indigenous live in the Philippines, about 8.7% of the population, according to census data, and many 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 ethnicity-disaggregated data to clearly identify Indigenous Peoples and other ethnic minorities could improve poverty reduction strategies and the targeting of social programs, the report says.

"Understanding the interplay of ethnicity, gender, and geography is crucial to comprehending the challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples, which are closely linked to the conditions within their geographic locations," said World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand Ndiamé Diop. "It is apparent that Indigenous Peoples are at a disadvantage in several critical aspects of well-being, including education, labor, access to productive opportunities, and gender equality, compared to non-Indigenous Peoples."

The Indigenous Peoples Survey conducted in 2023 reveals that approximately 59% of Indigenous Peoples perceive themselves as "poor," compared to 52% of people who do not identify as indigenous. Almost half of them think that education, health, access to clean water, and social assistance are the most pressing concerns that the government needs to address to improve their welfare.

Approximately 51% of Indigenous Peoples consider themselves "food poor," higher than the 45% reported by non-Indigenous Peoples. Both groups experience hunger, with around 37% of Indigenous Peoples and 36% of non-Indigenous Peoples reporting instances of hunger in the past three months.

Compared to non-Indigenous populations, Indigenous Peoples also lag in educational metrics: smaller percentages advance beyond primary school, complete high school, or attain post-secondary education. Those with only primary education often find employment in agriculture or self-employment.

Despite these challenges, almost 90% of Indigenous Peoples said they are proud of their identity, and more than 70% have a strong sense of belonging to the country.

Continuing to strengthen and protect the legal recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral domains is a further avenue for improving their welfare.

"For Indigenous Peoples, land is a fundamental aspect of their identity, culture, and subsistence. Protecting Indigenous Peoples' land rights is therefore a crucial step in addressing poverty and conflict in the country," said World Bank Senior Social Development Specialist Carlos Perez-Brito.

While Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles - formal recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral domains - have been approved for approximately 20.5% of the country's total land area, processing has been slow. Overlapping and conflicting land management mandates and scarce resources have held the process back.

Data gaps also pose obstacles to understanding the complexity and diversity of Indigenous Peoples populations in the Philippines. The report recommends establishing standardized guidelines for Indigenous Peoples data collection, incorporating Indigenous Peoples indicators in national surveys, and including ethnicity variables in government statistics, among other actions.

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