World Bank cites need to increase IP's access to education, health

By Anna Leah Gonzales

May 27, 2024, 2:17 pm

MANILA – The World Bank said increasing access to water and sanitation, education, health services, and economic opportunities while preserving their cultural identities could improve indigenous peoples' (IPs) living standards.

In its "No Story, No Data: Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines" report released on Monday, the World Bank said that based on the Indigenous Peoples Survey conducted last year, there are about 9.4 million IPs in the Philippines.

The World Bank said most of these IPs live in geographically disadvantaged areas.

"Enhancing the development of these regions through improved connectivity and other interventions can accelerate poverty reduction within these communities. In addition, more ethnicity-disaggregated data to clearly identify indigenous peoples and other ethnic minorities could improve poverty reduction strategies and the targeting of social programs," it said.

The report said that based on the survey, 59 percent of IPs perceive themselves as “poor," while more than half also consider themselves as "food poor."

Almost half of them also think that education, health, access to clean water, and social assistance are the most pressing concerns that the government needs to address to improve their welfare.

Compared to non-indigenous populations, IPs also lag in educational metrics.

Survey results showed that smaller percentages advance beyond primary school, complete high school, or attain post-secondary education.

Only those with primary education often find employment in agriculture or self-employment.

"Understanding the interplay of ethnicity, gender, and geography is crucial to comprehending the challenges faced by indigenous peoples, which are closely linked to the conditions within their geographic locations," said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand.

"It is apparent that indigenous peoples are at a disadvantage in several critical aspects of well-being, including education, labor, access to productive opportunities, and gender equality, compared to non-indigenous peoples," he added.

The World Bank, however, said almost 90 percent of IPs said they are proud of their identity and more than 70 percent have a strong sense of belonging to the country.

The report said there is a need to strengthen and protect the legal recognition of the rights of IPs to their ancestral domains.

"For indigenous peoples, land is a fundamental aspect of their identity, culture, and subsistence. Protecting indigenous peoples’ land rights is therefore a crucial step in addressing poverty and conflict in the country," World Bank Senior Social Development Specialist Carlos Perez-Brito said. (PNA)