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DENR eyes including indigenous conservation in ECC process

By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, Oct. 30 (PNA) – The environment department aims tightening its screening of proposed projects nationwide to help better protect Philippine eco-systems from adverse impacts of these target undertakings.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio said the agency is considering to integrate, into its screening process, the environmental conservation strategy called Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Conserved Areas and Territories (ICCA).

"We're planning to include ICCA in the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) process," he said.

ECC is a document DENR issues after its screening shows a proposed project won't cause significant negative environmental impact.

Such document certifies the project proponent's compliance with Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) system requirements of government and commitment to implement its approved Environmental Management Plan.

EIS is a project proponent's study of the proposed undertaking's significant impacts on the environment.

ICCAs are natural and modified ecosystems including significant biodiversity values, ecological services and cultural values voluntarily conserved by indigenous peoples (IPs) and local communities and governed through customary laws and other effective means, said DENR.

DENR noted such areas are also sacred to IPs and indigenous communities.

Ignacio said DENR is increasingly promoting ICCA as this agency recognizes IPs' centuries-old capability for protecting their environment and sustainably using resources there.

Integrating ICCA into the ECC process makes sense, he noted.

"There must be a process for protecting IPs' environment and resources there as some projects will affect these," he said.

In 1997, government enacted RA 8371 (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or IPRA) to recognize, protect and promote rights of IPs and indigenous cultural communities nationwide.

RA 8371 recognizes such parties' right to manage and conserve natural resources within areas these traditionally occupied, owned or used.

"IPs have been at the forefront of protecting biodiversity in their respective ancestral domain," noted National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Chairperson Leonor Quintayo.

IPRA also upholds the parties' responsibilities on ensuring ecological balance in the areas and observing laws for the benefit of future generations.

"NCIP is enhancing its ancestral domain guidelines to ensure such concerns are factored in," Quintayo said.

"Biodiversity has been IPs' way of life since time immemorial," she noted.

State-run NCIP formulates and implements policies, plans and programs for recognizing, promoting and protecting IPs' rights and well-being with due regard to their ancestral domains and land, self-governance and empowerment, social justice, human rights andcultural integrity.

Earlier, Ignacio said DENR, NCIP, Department of Agrarian Reform and Land Registration Authority are coordinating to rationalize the tenurial system for forest land nationwide.

ICCAs can be priority areas for such rationalization, he noted.

The rationalization aims to help address problems that are negatively affecting tenure in the uplands and efforts to enhance environmental protection there.

Authorities also said Philippine forest tenurial problems are adversely impacting on sustainable livelihood and income as well as conditions and equity in the uplands. (PNA)

CTB/CJT/EDS

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