Even with strong legislation in place, indigenous peoples face challenges in realizing rights.
Governments tend to get a bit squeamish when you begin talking to them about Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). FPIC requires that communities receive timely and adequate information about oil and mining projects that affect them and they have the ability to approve or reject these projects.
Not surprisingly, governments get particularly nervous about the idea of incorporating FPIC in their national laws when mineral resources represent a large share of government revenue.
The Philippines, however, has done just that.
Since 1997, the Philippines’ Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) has required that government ensure FPIC prior to approving projects that will affect indigenous peoples’ lands and resources. However the road to effective implementation has been rocky and the promise of FPIC has not yet been fulfilled, as highlighted in Oxfam America’s new briefing paper, Free Prior and Informed Consent in the Philippines: Regulations and Realities.
Indigenous peoples hold the right of FPIC under international law. In the Philippines, the IPRA recognizes indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and incorporates FPIC as a way to protect indigenous rights and interests and to give them a voice in matters that affect them. In the mining context, the IPRA requires FPIC to “explore, excavate or make diggings on archeological sites” of indigenous peoples and “prior to the grant of any license, lease or permit for the exploitation of natural resources,” which would affect indigenous peoples.
Unfortunately, even with strong legislation in place, indigenous peoples in the Philippines have faced considerable challenges in realizing their right to give or withhold FPIC. Implementation weaknesses include: failure to conduct prior consultations with communities on site, failure to respect customary decision-making processes, use of gifts for bribery or coercion, and limited public dissemination of information, among others. The photo (right) highlights a particularly egregious case in which a mining company chose to build around the home of a family when it withheld its FPIC.
Civil society and government representatives in other countries are now considering how to best safeguard FPIC within their own particular contexts. In order to share some of the key lessons from the Philippines’ experience, Oxfam worked with the Philippines-based organization Bantay Kita to develop the briefing paper, which looks both at the regulatory protections for FPIC in the Philippines and at past obstacles to effective implementation. In addition, it highlights features of new implementing rules adopted by the government in 2012 to promote more effective future implementation of FPIC.
Effective implementation of the new rules will be critical if the Philippine government hopes to achieve real community participation in natural resource decision-making and genuine protection of indigenous peoples’ rights.
Read more from Oxfam and Bantay Kita’s briefing paper here: Free Prior Informed Consent in the Philippines: Regulations and Realities