Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 10:00 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - The Philippines

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 6 July 2011
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - The Philippines, 6 July 2011, available at: [accessed 22 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Debate continued in 2010 over reproductive health legislation. A proposed bill, which would provide women universal access to birth control methods, has caused great political and religious controversy in the Philippines, where the Catholic Church is influential. The church has reportedly threatened to excommunicate politicians who support the bill.

The Philippines is one of the only countries in the world that explicitly criminalizes abortion with no exceptions, according to a report released last year by the US-based Center for Reproductive Rights. Faced with the ban, pregnant women often turn to unsafe illegal abortion methods. In 2008, roughly 560,000 induced abortions took place throughout the country, the report noted. Arguably, the criminalization of abortion and denial of access to methods for birth control represents a particular violation of the rights of the country's non-Catholic minority, who may not believe in the church's opposition to abortion or contraception. Indeed, as the report notes, not only was abortion legal in pre-colonial times, it was widely practised by indigenous groups.

Several religious-based attacks were reported during the year, including bombings of places of worship. In January, a grenade exploded near a cathedral in Sulu province where Christians form a minority. In May, two people died and a dozen people were injured after a hand grenade exploded inside a mosque in Cotabato. Also in Sulu, a bomb exploded on Christmas Day inside a chapel, wounding 11 people including a priest.

In February, the government passed a law creating the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, a cabinet-level body tasked with promoting the rights of Muslims. The agency was formed with the stated aim of ensuring Filipino Muslims are 'active participants in nation-building'. By law, at least one of the seven members of the commission must be a woman.

In May, Benigno Aquino III was elected president following national elections. Aquino has in part prioritized reconciliation, promising in December to work toward establishing stability in the Mindanao region, which is home to a significant population of Muslims and which has seen a long-running anti-government insurgency in some areas. Aquino has pledged to push forward with the on-going peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a major armed Islamic group. MILF fighters have for years staged guerrilla warfare against authorities, though a ceasefire was signed in July 2009.

The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing conflict in Mindanao peaked at around 750,000 by spring 2009. By the end of 2010, that figure had fallen to between 100,000 and 123,000 civilians, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. At the end of 2010, the UN IRIN news agency quoted a government official as saying authorities hoped to resettle all IDPs within one year.

The quest for energy continued to cause concern for indigenous communities. In Mindanao, critics of a proposed 300-megawatt hydropower project, dubbed Pulangi 5, say the plan could flood huge swathes of land claimed by indigenous people. Proponents of the project have argued the plan is necessary to counter a 'power crisis' in Mindanao.

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