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Ibatan ethnic origin officially recognized by Philippine government

Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title Ceremony (June 2007) The Republic of the Philippines officially announced that it has identified its 111th "indigenous cultural community," the Ibatan people. The Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act provides a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) for selected ethnic groups to acknowledge continuous land ownership since time immemorial.

A CADT was presented to members of the Ibatan tribal council at the 1 June 2007 ceremony, granting exclusive rights to Babuyan Claro and Ditohos islands and the surrounding waters. Commissioner Corazon M. Espino, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), made the presentation on Babuyan Claro, amidst officials of Cagayan Province, NCIP, other governmental agencies and SIL.

"The survival of the Ibatan tribe is anchored [in] the preservation of their ancestral domain," stated NCIP Regional Director Ruben S. Bastero, adding that "the source of living of the Ibatan tribe is fishing, planting and hunting. These situations and livelihood manifestly demonstrate the dire dependence of the Ibatan tribe [on] their ancestral domain."

Learning of legislation after six years

In June 2003, Ibatan tribal leaders learned of the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act through Rundell and Judith Maree of SIL. The landmark legislation was signed into law on 29 October 1997 by former President Fidel Ramos. The Marees had lived in the area for several years, collecting genealogies and other anthropological data while doing linguistic research.

At the request of the Ibatan people, SIL contacted NCIP, which initiated the process of recognizing the Ibatan as a legitimate indigenous ethnic community and further establishing the claim for their ancestral domain. The CADT award ceremony was the final step, after completing the Claimbook of the Ibatan ancestral domain and registering it with the Registry of Deeds.

Ibatan cultural distinctives

The Ibatan remain distinct from the better known Ivatan to the north, near Taiwan, and the Ilocanos to the south, near Luzon. Babuyon Claro had been uninhabited from 1681 until the late 19th century when voyagers from neighboring islands were sporadically shipwrecked there by strong currents and unpredictable winds. Due to genealogical as well as geographical isolation, the Ibatan developed a social structure and language distinct from that of neighboring islands.

Partnership between SIL and UNESCO on various projects brings together a network of expertise and resources that serve the world’s linguistic minority communities. As a nongovernmental organization, SIL has been in formal relations with UNESCO since 1993 and in special consultative status since 1998. Such affiliations provide a platform for SIL to contribute to the global dialogue on language development and MLE.

NCIP personnel and other stakeholders conducted fieldwork to substantiate the Ibatan proof of ownership. SIL helped the local community by recording their oral traditions and corroborating ancestry with known volcanic eruptions.

SIL's role in advocacy worldwide

SIL International works with language communities worldwide to facilitate language-based development through research, training and advocacy. SIL supports those ethnolinguistic communities whose voices often are not heard—those who want to express their needs to the individuals and agencies that can help them achieve their goals.

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