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 individuals/corporations, and which are necessary to ensure their economic, social and cultural welfare. It shall include ancestral lands, forests, pasture, residential, agricultural, and other lands individually owned whether alienable and disposable or otherwise, hunting grounds, burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and other natural resources, and lands which may no longer be exclusively occupied by ICCs/IPs but from which they traditionally had access to for their subsistence and traditional activities, particularly the home ranges of ICCs/IPs who are still nomadic and/or shifting cultivators. It is subject to property rights within the ancestral domains already existing and/or vested upon effectivity of R.A. 8371.
What is “Ancestral Land”? It refers to land occupied, possessed and utilized by individuals, families and clans who are members of the ICCs/IPs since time immemorial, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, under claims of individual or traditional group ownership, continuously, to the present except when interrupted by war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth, or as a consequence of government projects and other voluntary dealings entered into by government and private individuals/corporations, including, but not limited to, residential lots, rice terraces or paddies, private forests, swidden farms and tree lots. It is also subject to property rights within the ancestral domains already existing and/or vested upon effectivity of R.A. 8371.
What are the rights to Ancestral Domain? Certain rights of ownership and possession of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains are recognized and protected, including the right:
1. Of ownership. This includes lands, bodies of water traditionally and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within the domains.
2. To develop, control and use lands and natural...
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