A group of indigenous women in traditional dress

Indigenous People’s (IP) communities are disproportionately impacted, not only because their livelihoods and culture are heavily intertwined with the land and environment, but also because they have been excluded from engaging in policy making that affects them. We are working with our partner, Teduray Lambangian Women’s Organisation Inc (TLWOI), to listen to the first hand experiences of IP communities and ensure governance is more inclusive. 

We recently spoke with Froilyn Mendoza, head of TLWOI and a member of the Indigenous People’s community, who shared the effects of climate change on her community, the importance of ancestral land, and ensuring the IP's voices are fed into climate and environmental policy of the new government. 

What issues are the indigenous community facing in terms of climate change and land use in the Bangsamoro?

“June, July and August we were really overwhelmed by the impact of climate change, specifically the indigenous community… Can you just imagine the community is flooded, and the IP community are telling the government that this hasn’t happened before, their houses were flooded and they can no longer live in these areas because of the soil erosion. It is very hard for them to raise these issues but they are concerned as climate change impacts a traditional area of the IP community.”

“It is not clear who owns the land, there are a lot of people in positions of power who are claiming the land from indigenous communities.”

“The IP community are displaced. The rivers where we used to do our recreational activities, we can’t use anymore because they are privatised. We can no longer plant rice because the fields have been converted for agro industries. Trees have been cut down for sports activities, but we can’t go to the forest because there are armed groups in the forest. 

"This shows the complexity of climate change, peace and security… the Bangsamoro government is still transitioning, but these laws protecting the IP community are still at the governance level.”

What happens when the IP community is displaced, how does it affect the people and community?

“The land is very important to them because they have nowhere else to retreat to. The low land is already occupied by either the settlers or the Moro community…”

“[If we are displaced] we will be like our brothers, the Badjao tribe, who were displaced by the sea… we do not want to live in the lowland as it is not our culture and we cannot survive. We have our own way of cultivating our land and our own agricultural systems…This is our way. This is not only important for us, this is for the next generation. We have our own way of being entrepreneurial.” 

“I’ll tell you about a village that was uprooted due to flooding: The local government made a makeshift centre for them but the community have said it is not sustainable and they want to return to their place or origin. The IP community are not people who congregate, their houses in the upland villages are very far from each other because it is also their farmland.”

“The resettlement area is usually only one hectare to fit an entire village… there is no water and they have to go to the river to fetch it, but in their villages there are springs around them. Before they could easily get firewood to cook but when they are resettled they have to buy all of these things but they have no money. They experience discrimination because they have no economic income, in the villages they live from their land. It is really better that we return to our places of origin. This is what peace for us is” 

Your organisation TLWOI, is organising dialogues with communities impacted by climate change to ensure their concerns are fed into new government policies. Why do you think this is so important in the Bangsamoro region and what difference do you hope it will make?

“I represent the IP community in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority - which was established to ensure implementation of the peace process. The community are happy because they have a voice in the parliament. There are challenges along the way, I can already feel the pressure of all of these things.

"The results of these community dialogues will reinforce the policy recommendations which we will put forward in parliament… It will help us legitimise the issues that we are raising because we have evidence to show parliament what is going on in the community.”

“I hope the IP community will have this feeling of an empowered community and will have a better understanding of why the issue of climate change and environmental protection is very important to them.”

“More men, women and youth are talking about the importance of the effects of climate change and the issue of climate change on their ancestral domain… maybe they will become the focal person in their community whenever these issues are raised because of what they gain from the project. Hopefully they will be able to articulate without fear to local authorities and that authorities will be more responsive to the issues facing the IP community.”