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Primer on Ancestral Lands and Ancestral Domains
Published by Atty. Fred August 14th, 2008 in Elections and Constitutional Law. 2 Comments

One of the bigger issues for the past couple of days is the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain (for the Bangsamoro People in certain parts of Mindanao) between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Petitions have been filed with the Supreme Court assailing the validity of the MOA, so we could not really discuss it. Let’s have a general discussion on ancestral lands and ancestral domains.

Is there a Constitutional basis for ancestral domains? Yes. Section 5 of Article XII of the Constitution provides:

The State, subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national development policies and programs, shall protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social, and cultural well-being.

The Congress may provide for the applicability of customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain.

Is there any law which covers ancestral domains? Yes. Under Republic Act No. 8371, also known as “The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997,” the State recognizes and promotes certain rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) within the framework of the Constitution.

What is “Ancestral Domain”? It refers to all areas generally belonging to ICCs/IPs comprising lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and natural resources therein, held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs, by themselves or through their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial, continuously to the present except when interrupted by war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a consequence of government projects or any other voluntary dealings entered into by government and private...
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