Durban International Convention Centre Durban, South Africa 31 August - 7 September 2001

Madame President,
Distinguished delegates,
Eminent Representatives of National Human Rights Institutions,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the tradition set by all previous speakers, allow me to start, on behalf of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, by expressing our deep appreciation to the people and Government of South Africa, as well as to the South Afric n Human Rights Commission, for the warm welcome and generous hospitality extended to us and for hosting this important event. It is highly significant that this gathering should be held in a country which symbolizes the coming together of different races and cultures bent on overcoming their past differences to build a nation free from the shackles of apartheid. South Africa constitutes an important example and an inspiration for this Conference through the heroic struggle of its people for equality and justice, and through its contribution to the ongoing global efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. This World Conference embodies the hopes of millions of people who aspire to see their situation ameliorated, and, more importantly, prevented from happening again in any new form or manner.

Let me also congratulate you , as well as the other Officers of this Conference, on your merited election and your enormous contribution to the success of this most important world conference - the first in this new millennium.

Allow me further to first express my deepest appreciation and pay special tribute to Ms. Mary Robinson, High Commissioner on Human Rights, and Secretary-General of this Conference, for her kind invitation to all National Human Rights Institutions, and, in particular, to the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, to actively participate in this World Conference as well as for her admonition and encouragement all through the preparatory process.

Madame President,

For the first time in the history of involvement of National Human Rights Institutions in the affairs of the United Nations, we have consensually produced the National Institutions' Statement to the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The Philippine Commission on Human Rights, proud to have actively participated in its drafting, supports unequivocally and in no uncertain terms every statement contained thereat. We thus implore all governments represented in this conference to seriously consider our statement.

Madame President,

My country, the Philippines, is not different from other third world countries in many respects. But I would like to focus only on measures to prevent discrimination against indigenous peoples and migrants.

We have indigenous peoples who consist of at least one-seventh of the entire 75 million Filipino population. Like most countries represented in this august conference, we are a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual nation.

We would like to believe our government's position that there is no racial discrimination in the country. However, after we have conducted a nationwide research study on the situation of our indigenous peoples, we have concluded otherwise. Thanks to the technical assistance of the Rockefeller Foundation through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; we were able to dig deeper into the issues of homegrown discrimination, manifested, inter alia, in prejudices and biases, against our approximately 15 million indigenous peoples.

Our research study shows that the Philippine government has enacted several laws and formulated a number of policies and has put in place the institutional framework in pursuit of its Constitutional mandate and implicit fulfillment of its commitments to international conventions and treaties, among which are the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. However, our study reveals that there are gaps between laws and policies on the one hand, and the practices and capability of the institutions to fully implement these. Moreover, the general public consciousness and perceptions of indigenous peoples as well as their attitudes and behavior towards them reflect a lingering systemic prejudice and discrimination against IPs, with roots in the distant colonial past.

Adhering to the call of the High Commissioner for practical and action-oriented discussions, and towards the immediate and long-term response to correcting discrimination so that indigenous peoples, along with other citizens, would enjoy their human rights to the fullest possible, we propose the following recommendations:

At the international level -

I. systematic and coordinated information, education and advocacy programs on peace, respect for human rights and cultural differences, in support of IP rights by international and national advocacy groups. The Manila Forum coming out of the Second International Forum on the Culture of Peace held in Manila in November 1995 is a good starting point. Existing peace education efforts by GOs and NGOs could be enhanced to include elimination of racial discrimination. The National Human Rights Institutions and the Foreign Affairs Departments, together with government's agencies for IPs, could play lead roles in follow through activities;

2. Effective regular and periodic review of compliance by the governments to their international treaty obligations; and, holding of briefings by NHRIs with treaty monitoring bodies prior to the conduct of review;

3. effective participation of IPs through their duly-recognized organizations in relevant international policy-making institutions and fora such as those of the United Nations, World Bank and international donor agencies. Equally important is the full participation in the decision-making of these agencies at the national level, to include adequate financial and material support for IPs thru their legitimate organizations to plan for themselves and to choose their own donor partners, in the true spirit of solidarity.

At the national level, all governments:

- must translate the CERD into local laws, with specific attention to giving better legal protection to the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants.

- must provide adequate budgetary outlay to enable their various line agencies and other national agencies, and national human rights institutions to fully implement their mandates in providing services to the IPs.

- must obtain disaggregated data, through their Official Statistics Offices, by ethnic origin in order to better monitor and address racial discrimination.

- must implement the following in their formal educational system:

- culturally appropriate integrated educational system by building on existing local initiatives and by establishing an appropriate mechanism to implement this education program at the national level. In this regard, it may be worthwhile to explore the feasibility of creating a Bureau of IP education.

- Strict implementation of education opportunities such as scholarships for IPs. - Production of textbooks and other instructional materials reflective of the cultural diversity of the country's society;

- Enhancement of indigenous schools, such as Madrasah schools, through material support by government.

- should provide support, through their health agencies, for the promotion of traditional healing practices which include advocacy and training and without prejudice to providing adequate health care facilities and personnel;

- ensure adequate representation of IPS in all levels and branches of the government affecting them;

- where there are conflicts, should declare the ancestral domains as zones of peace.

In the judiciary,

- clearer policy should be made on the interface between customary laws, state laws, and international laws.

- Full recognition of the applicability of customary laws within the ancestral domains should be accorded, with the option of the communities to codify or not to codify their respective customary laws.

- As a general recommendation, strengthen the national human rights institution's prosecutory powers including the power to impose penal sanctions on violations of nondiscriminatory laws.

- Finally, the capacity of the courts to act on cases of discrimination should be enhanced.

In our everyday life, multi-media should be used to educate the general public as to the history, present conditions, needs and aspirations of IPs. This requires the development of an adequate information, education and communication materials.

To ensure fair and accurate media reportage, we strongly recommend for the organization and/or mobilization of media advocacy groups for anti-discriminatory media practices, with support from the academe and media practitioners themselves;

Indigenous peoples and their own organizations should take an active role in the education for human rights, peace, democracy, and mutual respect for differences at local and international levels not only among themselves but also for the general public. This is not as simple as it seems, particularly for IPs. Being the poorest of the poor, they will need external support to plan, launch and sustain a national program of this nature. Initially, appropriate UN agencies may provide support until such time as internal sources could be generated. NHRIs, NGOs and academics with a proven track record of supporting IP initiatives could be tapped for their services, subject to the consent of the IP communities through their organizations.

Madame President,

Considering the fact that we are now in the so-called borderless economies and traversing information highways, the challenges to human rights also know no boundaries.

Like other developing countries, the Philippines supplies the richer countries with millions of skilled, well-trained, and educated workers. My country is therefore one of those rich sources of migrants. As a protective measure, we recommend that countries providing migrant workers should set up human rights desks in the countries of their destination. Said human rights desks should be functionally under their respective national human rights institutions and administratively under their governments' ambassadors.

Thank you.