Strengthening National Systems to Improve Governance and Management of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Conserved Areas and Territories

Lead country


Participating countries


Project status


Implementing period

From September 29, 2015 to December 28, 2020

SDGs addressed by this project

SDG targets

  1. 15.5 Reduce habitat degradation, halt biodiversity loss, extinction
  2. 15.2 Promote sustainable forest management, restoration, afforestation
  3. 15.9 Integrate ecosystem values into national planning

Project ID: 5389

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Technical team

  • Ecosystems and Biodiversity Programme

Technical area(s)

  • Mainstreaming biodiversity
  • Strengthening conservation areas


  • Agrobiodiversity
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Ecosystem-based adaptation


  • Conserved areas
  • Forests
  • Marine


  • Indigenous and communities conserved areas (ICCAs)
  • Key biodiversity areas (KBAs)
  • Montane forests
  • Tropical forests
  • Coasts
  • Seas

Transformed sector(s)

  • Forestry and other land use
  • Aquaculture
  • Agriculture

UNDP role(s)

  • Capacity development / Technical assistance
  • Institutional mechanism and system building
  • Innovative approaches


  • Management operation
  • Capacity building
  • Governance


  • Conserved areas/ protected areas management
  • Demonstration sites/Pilot
  • Sustainable land management
  • Traditional knowledge application
  • Community capacity building
  • Institutional capacity building
  • Alignment
  • Advocacy (towards policy makers)
  • Laws/ Policy/ Plan formulation

Social inclusion

  • Indigenous peoples
  • Local community/CSOs

Gender equality

  • Women's access to and control over resources
  • Women decision making

Gender result effectiveness scale



  • Systems pathway
  • People pathway

Risk reduction target(s)

  • Improve resilience

SDG target(s)

  • 15.5 Reduce habitat degradation, halt biodiversity loss, extinction
  • 15.2 Promote sustainable forest management, restoration, afforestation
  • 15.9 Integrate ecosystem values into national planning

Conventions and protocols

  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  • National Development Policies

Private sector(s)


Hot topic

  • Structural/system transformation

About this project


The Philippines is the worldÔÇÖs second largest archipelago country after Indonesia and includes more than 7,100 islands covering 297,179 km2 in the westernmost Pacific Ocean. It is one of the worldÔÇÖs richest countries biologically. The country is one of the few nations that is, in its entirety, both a hotspot and a megadiversity country, placing it among the top priority hotspots for global conservation. The island geography, the climate and the once extensive areas of rainforest, have resulted in a high level of biodiversity endemism in the country. At the very least, one third of the more than 9,250 vascular plant species native to the Philippines are endemic. Of the 530 bird species found in the Philippines, 185 (35%) are endemic. 61% of the mammal species, 68% (160 species) of reptiles and 70% of nearly 21,000 recorded insect species found in the Philippines are endemic. The endemism is even higher (85% or 90 species) for amphibians, Philippines plays host to 65 endemic fish species, with 9 endemic genera. 70% of the nearly 21,000 insect species are endemic. Biodiversity loss is a problem of global proportions. The worldÔÇÖs biodiversity is estimated to be experiencing rates of extinction at least 1,000 times higher than any time previously in EarthÔÇÖs history, with some 20,000 species known to be threatened with extinction and many more likely to be threatened (Barber et al., 2004, p. 30). Habitat destruction is identified as the main driver of biodiversity loss. To prevent further habitat destruction and conserve biodiversity, countries and governments designated national terrestrial and marine protected areas. As of January 2009, there are 122,512 nationally designated protected areas in 235 countries and territories included in the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). These areas cover 21,242,195 sq km, or about 12.1 per cent of the earthÔÇÖs surface. This includes both terrestrial and marine protected areas. While there has been considerable progress in the growth of protected areas over recent decades, there is growing scientific agreement and policy recognition that existing areas are not sufficient to meet the increasing challenges of biodiversity conservation. In the Philippines, where 5.4 million hectares have been established as protected areas (representing 18% of the countryÔÇÖs total land area), there is agreement among stakeholders that there are huge gaps in coverage and representativeness of the protected area system. Compared to the extent of identified key biodiversity areas (KBAs) in the country, existing protected areas cover only 35% of KBAs. There are an estimated 4.6 million of KBAs that need to be placed under some form of effective protection. Filling these gaps only by expanding conventional protected areas is impractical given both the enormous areas to be covered and issues of jurisdiction where about 4.3 million hectares have been recognized as ancestral domains and an additional 2.6 million hectares are covered with application for certificates of ancestral domain titles (CADTs). Using the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) approach, the legislation required to gazette a protected area takes years to complete. Unless there are other cost effective ways of accelerating the expansion of conservation coverage, it is likely that degradation will cause irreparable damage to these KBAs before these can be placed under effective protection, resulting in direct loss of Philippine endemic biodiversity. In order to address this, the government, through the UNDP-GEF supported New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP), has pilot tested the recognition of new and diversified governance regimes in the establishment and management of protected areas. One which has gained international recognition is the country effort in documentation, mapping and recognition of indigenous community conserved areas (ICCAs) in territories occupied by indigenous peoples, which have overlaps in biologically significant terrestrial areas, estimated to reach about 1,345,198 hectares (involving CADTs in 91 KBAs). This means that 29% of the entire area of KBAs requiring protection falls into territories occupied by indigenous peoples, so creating mechanisms for recognition and strengthening of ICCAs creates the enabling environment for a significant contribution to the strategic expansion of the protected area estate to protect globally significant biodiversity. Through the NewCAPP, the potential for more cost effective expansion and diversification of conservation coverage has been documented; with proven co benefits to upholding the rights of indigenous peoples, protection of their livelihoods and cultural and spiritual values associated with such ICCAs. In the Philippines, ICCAs include sacred sites and natural features, indigenous territories, cultural landscapes and seascapes. They are found in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the country. The ICCA sites also represent different bio-geographic regions. They can be found from the mountain ridges to the coral reefs. They provide habitats to a high diversity of flora and fauna, as evidenced from the high degree of overlaps between KBAs and ancestral domains. Based on experience from NewCAPP, the Indigenous Cultural CommunitiesÔÇÖs (ICC) designated ICCAs can range from their sustainable hunting grounds which are governed by traditional systems of resource use; to sacred places and entire forest corridors; depending on the value of ICCAs to a particular ICC community.By working on several pilot areas, NewCAPP has initiated policy and structural changes, such as the inclusion of new forms of protected areas in the National PA System Plan that is currently under formulation. This has created an opportunity for a significant expansion of the national conservation estate, through recognition of ICCAs, which typically coincide with areas of greatest surviving endemism. As a result of the work done by NewCAPP and other partners such as NGOs and NCIP, there is now significant interest from many ICC groups to map, document and recognize their ICCAs.Long-term Vision and Barriers The long-term vision is to adequately represent the biodiversity of the Philippines in its protected area system of which the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Conserved Areas and Territories form an integral part. The barriers to this long term vision are briefly described as follows:Inconsistent or lack of clear policy to support ICCA establishment and managementPolicy harmonization is required to ensure existing policies afford ample protection to the ICCAs; and are duly integrated and recognized in local and national planning systems. The Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA) provides for the conservation of natural resources as one of the prime objectives in the management of ancestral domains; however, the ICCAs do not enjoy the same level of policy protection as protected areas declared under the NIPAS. For example, NIPAS clearly prohibits mining activities within PAs, as well as the construction of renewable energy plants exceeding 3 megawatts. Any infrastructure exceeding this capacity should be supported by legislation. This is not the case for ICCAs, where in addition to environmental impact study; all that is needed is FPIC from the community affected. The proposed ICCA Bill could strengthen the policy cover for ICCAs, as areas identified for conservation purposes, but it does not yet have widespread support, and there is a need for advocacy to build consensus around the objectives of the Bill. Other policies, such as resource use in ancestral domains, land use planning preparation, and related laws have fragmented and sometimes contradictory objectives, and need to be harmonized to ensure the potential of ICCAs to effectively contribute to biodiversity conservation and well-being of ICCs. In protected areas established through the NIPAS, there is currently a lack of documentation and recognition of ICCAs; including support to implementation of community conservation plans, and providing this recognition would strengthen on the ground protection. Installing such procedure in the NIPAS guidelines would ensure all PAs covering ancestral domains would have provisions for recognition of the traditional governance mechanisms of ICCs in the sustainable management and protection of specific portions of gazetted PAs. Recognition of these traditional practices and resource use policies of the ICCs is also absent from formally established PAs, and should also be clarified through a series of administrative issuances, to ensure the ICCs are allowed to sustain their practices without being labeled as violating specific provisions of the NIPAS act.Lack of capacities of national, provincial and local governments to integrate ICCAs into their existing planning and governance systemsAt present there is a lack of capacity at all levels to systematically incorporate the mapping, documentation and recognition of ICCAs as part of ancestral domain delineation and management planning, as called for in the delineation of certificate of ancestral domain title (CADTs), and ancestral domain sustainable development protection plan (ADSDPP) formulation; following the IPRA. To optimize this potential, there is a need to improve the capacities of national government agencies such as NCIP, provincial and local governments to embed ICCA procedures into existing systems, and provide support to ICC groups. Likewise, the capacity of the National ICCA Consortium, now on its nascent stage with support from NewCAPP, needs to be strengthened to enable the ICCs and NGO support groups to effectively utilize the Consortium as the medium for formulating their priority self-determined plans and programs, policy advocacy, securing broader support for ICCAs, and protect these from unwanted forces that threaten the erosion of traditional knowledge and practices that provide the bedrock for ICCAs to exist. To strengthen the recognition system and the support mechanism by government, there is a need to institute an official recognition process for ICCAs and other forms of conservation measures, through the establishment of a National ICCA Registry, linked with the global ICCA registry at UNEP/WCMC. The registry should be able to formally acknowledge the ICCAs declared by the communities, and share such information with development support organizations to catalyze resource provision, and as reference for land use planning and development by local government units, key agencies and the private sector. The discussions started at NewCAPP can be brought to a level where the registry is operational through a vetting process; and as an instrument for monitoring progress towards the contribution of ICCAs in meeting BD conservation targets and sustainable management of natural resources.


Strengthening the conservation, protection and management of key biodiversity sites in the Philippines, by institutionalizing ICCAs as a sustainable addition to the national PA estate.

USD $1,826,484

Grant amount

USD $5,025,239

Leveraged amount (co-financing)


Source(s) of fund

Sources of fund


  • Global Environment Facility – Trust Fund ($1,826,484)

Implementing partner(s)

  • Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

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