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The Banao Bodong Tribal Association “Saving the forests, Saving the culture”

Posted on December 9, 2019


FPE Enabling Objectives (EO) 1 and 3: Establish local and international cooperation and constituencies for BCSD;  Promote responsive policies and actions for BCSD


An area showing part of the Banao Indigenous Community Conserved Area. Photo credit: Aivan Herzano

Indigenous Peoples (IP) are the true stewards of the land and are eternally interconnected with it.  Through their Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Practices (IKSP), biodiversity and ecosystem services in their domains have been protected, conserved, and enhanced for generations. 

Even before the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), IP rights were already enshrined in various international laws and statutes, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the International Labor Organization. Article XII Sec 5 of the Philippine Constitution is clear: “The State shall subject to provisions of the Constitution and national development policies and programs. Shall protect the rights of ICC to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social and cultural well- being.”

The IPRA law, as well as other national laws, ensure the right of IPs to manage and control the resources found within their domains. The Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) has recognized that IPs play a crucial role in safeguarding natural resources including biodiversity found therein. As such, FPE work hand in hand with these traditional managers in the conservation, management and use of these ancestral domains. 

FPE has remained steadfast in its mission to uphold the rights of IPs/ICCs, and this is best seen in the partnership between the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) and the Banao Bodong Tribal Association (BBTA). The BBTA has implemented a project inside the Banao Indigenous Community Conserved Area (ICCA) in Balabalan, Kalinga, whose main goal is to protect and conserve the watershed area of the Banao peoples spread in the provinces of Kalinga and Abra. 

Meeting between FPE staff and the community IPO officers of Banao Bodong Tribal Association

The Banao Ancestral Domain has an approximate area of 24,000 hectares with a population of 2,650 (DENR SRPAO 2016). It is situated in the western part of Balbalan municipality, bounded on the north by barangay Mabaca, on the south by Pasil municipality, on the east by barangay Salegseg (Poblacion, Balantoy and Gawaan) and on the west by the municipalities of Malibcong and Daguioman.


Meeting between FPE staff and members of the Concerned Citizen of Abra for Good Governance (CCGG)

Just like other IPs, they stand true to their moral and legal responsibility to maintain ecological balance in their ancestral domain which involves protection of the flora, fauna, watershed areas and forest reservations. They have also actively initiated restoration of areas affected by both anthropogenic activities and natural calamities, such as during Typhoon Ompong wherein almost the entire nursery beds to be used for reforestation activities were washed out leaving only 1,568 seedlings out of the 6,000 potted seedlings in the nursery. 

The Banao people have shown their unwavering resolve in the protection of their domain. For one, they have successfully formulated the Banao Community Conservation Plan (CCP) that included sustainable conservation mechanisms established to safeguard Banao Indigenous Conservation Areas. The BBTA has conducted various capability-building activities to capacitate its members. Other activities, ranging from research to project management, include the following:

  • Institutional Development

- Conducted on-the-job trainings on Bookkeeping
- Conduct trainings on Project Management and Financial Management

  • Resource Management

- Formulated Common Policies on resource use or Lapat as an essential step in guaranteeing the proper and sustainable use of resources.
-  Increased security and protection of the area through the deputation of Forest Guards/Bantay Gubat 
- Provision of training and supplies to deputized forest guards /Bantay Gubat
-Conducted Community Orientation/meeting about REDD+ to increase awareness and involvement of the community
- Organized Reforestation/planting of at least 20 hectares in the Banao area

  • Advocacy

-Conducted IEC on customary laws on environmental protection (Lapat/ICCA)
-Installed signages indicating boundaries and policies in the ancestral domain and the protected area policies in the ancestral domain and the protected area 

  • Skills training (Philippine Association for Inter-Cultural Development)
  • Inventory of forest resources (2013 to 2015)
  • Baseline data for carbon sequestration capability of forest
  • Resource inventory of Mt. Magchallao and Mt Bulak

IP groups, such as the Banao people, have long been the guardians of our forests. Their partnership with FPE, the vanguard of BCSD in the country, will go a long way for the next generations to come. And since forests are interwoven with their culture, saving their ancestral domain would ultimately save their customs and traditions. 


A sight of the Banao Indigenous Community Conserved Area at dusk. (Photo credit: Aivan Herzano)

A landmark to indicate the Banao Indigenous Communities Conservation Area (ICCA). Banao is one of FPE’s conservation sites.  (Photo credit: Aivan Herzano)

For more stories, click here to access the FPE 2019 Annual Report

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