Philippines Placeholder

Support to the rights of indigenous people of Zamboanga

About the Implementing organization

Name: Silsilah Dialogue Movement

Country: Philippines

Year of establishment: 1984

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization / Legally recognized non-profit status / Indigenous group or organization / Ethnic minority group or association


Zamboanga is a city of almost one million inhabitants. Zamboanga Peninsula is part of Mindanao and the native inhabitants of this place are the Subanon. The biggest indigenous people group in the Philippines, divided in different areas. Our effort is related to the help that we offer to the Subanon of Zamboanga that represents the population of three thousand people. in the last 30 years, the government has developed the western part of Zamboanga an Economic Zone which covers 9000 acre of the ancestral domain of the Subanon. initially, the government did not recognize their presence in spite of the specific law to protect there rights of the indigenous people but now, gradually, they are recognizing their presence. Silsilah, with other groups, like the Ateneo de Zamboanga University are working to come up with proper solution, proposing to the EcoZone a similar experience in the North between an indigenous group and the government. We are moving slowly to the proper solution, uniting the leaders of the Subanon and become mediator between them and the EcoZone. This ongoing effort has been done in different stages especially helping the subanon to reaffirm their identity and to be proud of their origin. We know that it is not easy to find the best solution but we are working for a win-win solution that saves the rights of the Subanon for the ancestral domain and the need of the government to develop properly the EcoZone.

Nature Element

Forests / Mountains

Type of Action

Protection / Access and benefit sharing / Awareness and education / Advocacy for land & water rights

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Peace and security / Climate action

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

The effort to support the rights of the Subanon that is identified partially with the EcoZone of Zamboanga, if properly handled by both parties, Subanon and EcoZone, could benefit both parties. In one side, the Subanon will be more in charged of protecting the environment with proper agreement with the government. In the other side, EcoZone will be sure that they could make proper transaction of business with investors if the investors know that the issue of the land with the Subanon is properly addressed. On the part of EcoZone, a good collaboration with the Subanon could be an opportunity to show that they respect the indigenous people and they can even have cultural programs in thearea that could benefit the development of EcoZone.

Sustainable Development Impacts

In addition to what we have mentioned, the proper agreement between EcoZone and the Subanon will help to have a better development in the area specially because in the future plan, that area will become an important industrial zone and port area of Zamboanga City. We can also add that the presence of the Subanon in the area will secure peace in the area considering that culturally, the Subanon are peace-loving people. A proper agreement can also help the Subanon to have scholarship and health programs for their community and help change the impressions commonly spread that the Subanon is the last category of the society. This positive effect can help to have a good model of peace considering that other groups in nearby areas are still in a conflict area with the government, specially because they tend to identify themselves with the Moro struggle that is the claim of the Muslim in any parts of Mindanao including areas around Zamboanga.


With the ongoing conflict in Mindanao and the peace process emerge clearly that the government is giving special attention to the Muslim claims but had left behind the claim of the Indigenous people. The indigenous people, historically, had been divided and been used by different revolutionary groups for their own strategy. in more recent time, the government, after a long process had reached an agreement with the indigenous group covered by the Indigenous Peoples' Rights of the Ancestral Domain (otherwise known as IPRA law). The action taken by Silsilah is in the context of the ongoing effort of many to help the indigenous people. For sure, if we are successful in this transaction, the benefit will also be expanded to other Subanon groups in Zamboanga Peninsula and largely, the national level. One of the concrete efforts is the book of one of our staffs on the history of the Subanon and other contacts done on the national level especially with the Indigenous people in Subic, in Luzon.


This is a very delicate time in the history of Mindanao considering that many peace agreement had been done but so far, not very successful. The interest to help Indigenous people in Mindanao is increasing and the groups who protect their rights and the groups with this advocacy is becoming many. This reality is positive but at the same time fragmented. We hope that our effort to help the Subanon will be properly consolidated and spread around. In this connection Silsilah is in close collaboration with the Ateneo de Zamboanga Unversity and the Office for the Indigenous People of the government. This good relation hopefully help us to spread more this effort specially with the Miserior partners of the Philippines, the Commission on Indigenous People of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and others. One of the unique effort to disseminate this experience is a permanent exhibit is Silsilah is finalizing in Harmony Village.

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