Gender, Land Rights, and Participatory Decision Making: A Case Study of the Dulangan Manobo and the FPIC for the Renewal of an Industrial Forest Management Project in Sultan Kudarat, Philippines

AUTHOR/S: Maricel P. Hilario-Patiño, Augusto B. Gatmaytan




             This study is part of a larger research project of the World Resources Institute, investigating women’s participation in decision-making with respect t community land in contexts of land acquisition by outside investors or companies in three countries, including the Philippines. The research project hopes to provide concrete data which could serve as the basis for the formulation of gender-equitable and participatory regulatory frameworks for future cases of land acquisition.

             To that end, the researchers selected Sitio Tamangan, in Sen. Ninoy Aquino municipality, sultan Kudarat province as project field-site. Tamangan is among a number of Dulangan Manobo communities affected by the operation of an industrial tree plantation whose license recently expired, and was thus negotiating with the Manobos for an extension of the same through the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) procedures set down by law. Conditions were thus opportune for the documentation and analysis of the community women’s participation in deciding whether or not to allow the company to continue operating in the area.

              The study found that, contrary to the widespread belief that indigenous land ownership is communal, land tenure among the Dulangan Manobo is private and individual. More importantly, women can be landowners in their own right; 20 out of 56 landowners encountered by the study were women. However, even though women owned lands, their participation in decision-making processes affecting those lands were limited by, among other factors, the fact that public meetings such as those of the FPIC procedures were traditionally dominated by men. In such meetings, women had to be represented by their men-folk, even though it was the former who actually had concrete interests at stake in the discussions or negotiations.

             The study recommends that procedures such as FPIC be refined as to be more sensitive to local land and resource tenure concepts and practices. The FPIC procedures’ assumption that indigenous communities are homogenous entities that can unproblematically be represented by an identified list of leaders, or by a Peoples’ Organization may obscure the existence, and thus negate the participation, of the actual local stakeholders. It also makes particular calls for the institutionalized inclusion of all landowners- male or female-in decision-making processes affecting land; and for capacity building that will enable women, in particular, to speak for themselves in such processes.

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