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We believe that the struggle to save Palawan (as many other biodiversity hot spots in our country) has to do, not only, with saving trees and rare species. More importantly, it is about nourishing the Filipino cultural heritage and traditional knowledge, so powerfully represented in the living practices of our indigenous communities that, after resisting Spanish and American colonization, are still struggling against mining and agribusiness oligarchies.

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© Copyright 2015 CALG

We want to make our government and mainstream society to realize that the last remaining biodiversity hot spots in our country completely overlap with our indigenous territories.  If these areas are still beautiful and green (as they are), this is exactly because us, the indigenous peoples, have maintained them in such pristine and sustainable state, over thousands of years.


We wish to enlighten and inspire all people to understand that forests are not just places being inhabited by rare species, but they are actually the 'cradle' of our indigenous cultures. Until this simple concept is understood, forest will continue to be regarded as the 'place of nature' separated from 'culture'. However there are still many challenges ahead of us and, the greatest amongst them is how to eradicate the long-standing prejudices and short-sighted views, which still depict us as ‘primitive’, ‘uncivilized’ and, overall, as people in need of ‘development’.


From our perspective, environmental plundering by mining and agribusiness firms is not only a crime against nature but also a crime against culture, a sort of genocide that annihilates the most profound roots of our Filipino's history and ultimately plunders the cultural heritage of the whole nation. The beauty and uniqueness of our indigenous cultures and the magnificence of our environment are two sides of the same coin, they are inextricably linked to one another; they are indivisible!


Our advocacy is centred on four major and interrelated components:  1) Ancestral Domains and ICCAs Recognition; 2) Safeguarding Indigenous Farming Systems; 3) Oil Palms and Agribusiness; 4) Mining and Extractive Industries.




One of the key strategies that CALG uses to counter land grabbing is to push for the formal recognition of indigenous peoples’ ancestral domains.  This is done by appealing to existing laws such as IPRA (Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act) and to other instruments, such as the registration of ICCAs (Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Territories and Areas) with the ICCA Registry of the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). Such registration can add value to the applying communities in a variety of ways, such as providing them a ‘Global Billboard’ announcing the traditional rules and policies that govern their ICCA. This, in turn, provides an early warning system to the communities in order to inform prospective investors and corporations of the existence and status of their ICCAs. We also hope that the passing, at the national level, of the so-called ICCA bill or House Bill No.115 will soon represent a better and more effective mechanism for our indigenous communities to ensure the protection of our land and resources.

© Copyright 2015 CALG

The release of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs) by applicant indigenous communities is guaranteed by the implementation of the IPRA law which is anchored on the recognition and respect of basic rights, including rights to ancestral lands and domains; rights to self-governance; social justice and human rights; rights to protection and preservation of cultural traditions and institutions; and rights to basic services. However, the overall process leading to the official release of such titles is often delayed by cumbersome bureaucratic procedures with which indigenous communities have great difficulties to cope with. Such procedures also require substantial financial costs that local communities alone are unable to sustain.  


The IPRA law also recognizes that processes of development planning for indigenous communities should respect their unique cultures and be mindful of their marginalized situation. In the law, such a plan is called: ‘Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan’ (ADSDPP). 


Some of the steps needed to apply for CADT under the IPRA law and for ICCA recognition are similar.  For instance, resources inventories, as well as the analysis of traditional governance mechanisms and IKSP (Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices) are, in fact, the key documentary steps for both CADT and ICCA procedures.   Furthermore, ADSDPP also provides the framework and defines the process underlying the formulation of the so-called ICCA Community Conservation Plan. 




The ADSDPP serves as the basis for IP communities to assert their rights to realize their development aspirations. ADSDPP formulation is based on: 1) a community-driven participatory social, institutional, demographic, economic, cultural and biophysical survey of the ancestral domain, adopting the spirit and intent of the IPRA; 2) a sustainable mechanism for promoting social dialogue in relation to the establishment of a federation and accompanying barangay or village-level consultation mechanisms covering the areas of the proposed ancestral domains. 


CALG instruments and measures to assist communities in the formulation of their ADSDPPs include a combination of approaches and methodologies such as social cartography with geo-spatial maps, audio-visual documentation, field appraisals, questionnaires and open ended interviews.


This documentation, in addition to peoples’ own development and land/resources management plans, provides indigenous communities with an improved information-base on which to make critical decisions regarding key environmental and social issues, conserve memories of the past and assess challenges and opportunities related to the governance and management of their ancestral lands. In this respect, one of CALG key objectives is the integration of Indigenous Peoples’ Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP) into the local government development plans and budgetary processes.   In fact, we aim at harmonizing the conflicting provisions of both IPRA and Local Government Code (LGC), so to integrate the mandate of the local governments with the way in which indigenous people wish to utilize and manage their own land and natural resources.



Shifting cultivation (commonly known in Palawan as uma and, in Tagalog, as kaingin) is, for most indigenous peoples of the Philippines, a fundamental part of their culture and identity and is totally engraved in their cosmology and foundation myths. CALG is engaged in various activities aiming at safeguarding traditional upland indigenous farming practices, the diversity of cultivated plants, as well as the rituals associated with them.  We disagree with government’s policies to ban shifting cultivation as a whole, without drawing first a distinction between the sustainable traditional farming patters of indigenous peoples and those of Filipino landless migrants. We are also critical of the position, being embraced by government agencies as well as by some conservation organizations, which advocate for the transition from shifting indigenous fields (kaingin, uma, etc.) into more sedentary forms of agriculture.

© Copyright 2015 CALG

As of now, CALG has carried out various actions to support our indigenous communities against top-down measures aiming at forbidding their farming practices and/or at legally persecuting single individuals for being engaged in shifting cultivation.  For instance, in 2014 we have assisted Batak communities to prepare a resolution requesting local authorities to lift the ban against shifting cultivation (create link here to ‘ uma resolution English’ and ‘uma resolution Tagalog’).  We have also taken actions in relation to various forms of violations committed against the Pala’wan indigenous people of Brooke’s Point. In 2015, some of them had been arrested for having allegedly destroyed watersheds and primary forest through their slash-and-burn practices.  At that time, CALG staff carried out a recognizance of kaingin fields in the upland of Amas and collected GPS and photographic evidences, as well as testimonies of the victims of arrest. All such evidences revealed that no watershed forest was ever cleared by members of the local communities and no virgin forest was cut by them for kaingin (not even secondary forest in the large majority of cases).  What the people being apprehended did, was to clear areas between 3/4 years fallow cycles with most trees having a diameter of about 20 cm only.  


At that time, CALG questioned the legality of such apprehensions, since both arrest and detention of indigenous people took place without a warrant and this is in violation of International and Philippine laws.  Our ‘Amas Geotagged Report’ highlights some of these concerns.


As of now, we continue to engage foresters and concerned government agencies on transparent debates about the cultural and ecological functions of traditional shifting cultivation.  Recently, with the help of an artist (Alexandra Huchet ), a short animation-video has been produced on how indigenous people carry out their sustainable shifting cultivation practices :









Why we do support traditional shifting cultivation ‘uma/kaingin’: some facts and figures ?

  • To make uma, our indigenous communities avail of forest areas that have been rotationally used by them over long periods of time. We plant our uma with upland rice and other root crops only for one year and then move to another area for the successive years. This is because we are well aware that forest soil is too thin and cannot be over-exploited; otherwise fertility will decrease to such an extent to make the soil infertile. In this is way, we give to land a regeneration period of at least 7/8 up to 25 years for vegetation to re-grow and for the soil to regain its own nutrients.

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