Indigenous Peoples’ Assistance Programs in the Philippines

Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the Philippines have long faced marginalization and discrimination, often being overlooked and underserved by the government. However, in recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the need to provide assistance and support to these communities. The Philippine government, along with various organizations and agencies, has been working towards addressing the challenges faced by Filipinos belonging to these groups and ensuring their rights and well-being are protected.

indigenous people assistance
Credits: NCIP / Facebook

Importance of Assistance for IPs

The recognition of the need for assistance to Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines stems from the historical marginalization and discrimination they have faced. IPs have long been deprived of their ancestral lands, cultural heritage, and basic rights. The Philippine government, along with international organizations and civil society, acknowledges the importance of addressing these issues and providing support to these groups.

According to the UNDP data from 2013, there are approximately 14-17 million IPs belonging to more than 110 ethno-linguistic groups in the Philippines. These communities often face higher poverty rates, limited access to education and healthcare, and economic disadvantages compared to the general population. Recognizing these disparities, the government has made efforts to prioritize the assistance and development of these populations.

  1. Ancestral Domain Rights: The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 recognizes and protects the ancestral domain rights of these people. This legislation grants IPs the right to their ancestral lands, self-governance, and the preservation of their cultural heritage. The government, through the NCIP, assists them in securing their ancestral domain claims and provides legal support in resolving land disputes.
  2. Improved Access to Basic Services: The government has implemented programs to improve access to education, healthcare, and sanitation for IPs. This includes the establishment of schools in indigenous communities, the provision of scholarships and financial assistance for IP students, and the deployment of healthcare workers to remote areas where these populations inhabit. Efforts are also being made to ensure that these services are culturally appropriate and sensitive to their needs.
  3. Economic Development: To address the economic disadvantages faced by these groups, the government has initiated various assistance programs. These programs aim to promote sustainable livelihoods, entrepreneurship, and economic empowerment among these communities. Examples include providing training and capacity-building programs, access to credit and financing, and support for the development of indigenous products and crafts.
  4. Cultural Preservation: Recognizing the importance of preserving the rich cultural heritage of IPs, the government supports initiatives that promote cultural preservation. This includes the documentation and promotion of indigenous languages, traditional arts and crafts, and cultural festivals. Assistance is provided to these communities in preserving and revitalizing their cultural practices, ensuring the transmission of cultural knowledge to future generations.

By providing assistance in these various forms, the Philippine government aims to address the historical injustices faced by these people and promote their overall well-being. These efforts are crucial in ensuring that they are empowered, their rights are protected, and their unique contributions to Philippine society are recognized and celebrated.

Support for Ancestral Domain Rights

The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 is a landmark legislation in the Philippines that recognizes and protects the rights of the indigenous population. It aims to secure and promote their ancestral domain rights, self-governance, cultural integrity, and social justice. Under IPRA, Indigenous Peoples have the right to their ancestral domains and lands, the right to self-determination, and the right to participate in decision-making processes that affect their communities.

IPRA provides a legal framework for the recognition and protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, ensuring that their voices are heard, and their cultural heritage is preserved. It establishes the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) as the primary government agency responsible for implementing the provisions of the law and assisting the Indigenous population in securing their ancestral domain rights.


Improved Access to Basic Services

The indigenous population in the Philippines often face significant barriers when it comes to accessing basic services such as education, healthcare, and sanitation. According to a 2015 report, 60 percent of IP villagers lack formal education. This disparity in educational opportunities hinders their ability to break the cycle of poverty and achieve their full potential.

Similarly, healthcare services in Indigenous communities are often inadequate and inaccessible. Many of those belonging in these communities live in remote areas, far from healthcare facilities, making it challenging for them to receive timely and appropriate medical care. As a result, they experience higher rates of preventable diseases and have lower life expectancies compared to the general population.

Furthermore, access to clean water and sanitation facilities is limited in many Indigenous communities. This lack of basic sanitation infrastructure poses health risks and contributes to the spread of diseases.


Importance of culturally appropriate services

It is crucial to recognize the importance of culturally appropriate services when addressing the needs of the indigenous people group.

  • IPs have unique cultural practices, beliefs, and languages that should be respected and integrated into service delivery.
  • Culturally appropriate services not only ensure that they feel valued and respected but also contribute to better outcomes in terms of education, healthcare, and sanitation.

When education programs incorporate Indigenous knowledge systems and practices, it enhances the learning experience for Indigenous students and promotes cultural preservation.

  • Similarly, healthcare services that are sensitive to cultural beliefs and practices are more likely to be accepted and utilized by Indigenous communities.
  • By incorporating traditional healing practices and involving Indigenous healers, healthcare providers can bridge the gap between Western medicine and Indigenous healing traditions.


Assistance programs aimed at improving access to basic services

To address the limited access to basic services for IP groups, the Philippine government, in collaboration with various organizations, has implemented assistance programs. One such program is the Department of Education‘s Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) program, which aims to provide culturally relevant and inclusive education to Indigenous students. The IPEd program includes the development of culturally appropriate curriculum materials, training for teachers on Indigenous culture and pedagogy, and the establishment of Indigenous Learning Centers in remote areas.


Economic Development for IP Communities

IP groups in the Philippines often face high levels of poverty and limited economic opportunities. Historical marginalization, land dispossession, and lack of access to resources have contributed to their economic disadvantage. Many IP communities rely on subsistence farming, fishing, and handicraft production, which may not provide sufficient income for their families.

Assistance programs supporting economic development and sustainable livelihoods

Recognizing the need to address these challenges, the Philippine government, in collaboration with various organizations, has implemented assistance programs aimed at promoting economic development and sustainable livelihoods for IP communities.

Livelihood Training and Skills Development: The government, through the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), TESDA and other agencies, provides training programs to equip them with skills that are in demand in the local market. These programs focus on areas such as agriculture, handicraft production, tourism, and entrepreneurship. By enhancing their skills, these communities are better equipped to engage in income-generating activities and improve their economic well-being.

Access to Credit and Financing: Lack of access to credit and financing has been a significant barrier for IP communities in starting or expanding their businesses. To address this, the government has established microfinance programs and cooperatives that provide financial assistance to these communities. These initiatives aim to empower them by providing them with the necessary capital to establish sustainable livelihoods and small-scale enterprises.

Market Linkages and Value Chain Development: Assistance programs also focus on establishing market linkages for IP products. This involves connecting IP producers with potential buyers, both locally and internationally. By facilitating market access, IPs can expand their customer base and increase their income. Additionally, value chain development initiatives help them to enhance the quality and value of their products, making them more competitive in the market.

Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management: Recognizing the importance of preserving the environment and promoting sustainable practices, assistance programs also support these communities in adopting sustainable agriculture techniques and natural resource management. This includes promoting organic farming, agroforestry, and sustainable fishing practices, led by the Department of Agriculture. By embracing these practices, IPs can not only improve their livelihoods but also contribute to environmental conservation.

These assistance programs play a crucial role in empowering IP communities and breaking the cycle of poverty. By providing them with the necessary resources, skills, and market opportunities, they can develop sustainable livelihoods, improve their economic conditions, and achieve greater self-reliance. However, it is important to continue supporting and expanding these programs to ensure long-term economic development for IP communities in the Philippines.

Cultural Preservation

The cultural heritage of IPs in the Philippines is rich and diverse, encompassing unique traditions, languages, rituals, and knowledge systems that have been passed down through generations. However, these cultural heritages are facing numerous threats in the modern world. Rapid urbanization, globalization, and the encroachment of mainstream cultures pose significant challenges to the preservation of IP cultures.

The loss of ancestral lands due to land grabbing and development projects disrupts the traditional way of life and erodes the cultural practices that are deeply rooted in the land. Additionally, the influence of mass media and Westernization can lead to the erosion of traditional knowledge, values, and practices among younger generations.



The recognition of the challenges faced by these people groups in the Philippines and the efforts to provide assistance and support to these communities mark a significant step towards addressing the historical marginalization and discrimination they have endured. The Philippine government, along with various organizations and agencies, has been actively working to protect the rights and well-being of our indigenous brothers across the country.

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