"Examining links between land title and optimisation of use of the traditional lands of the Aytas of Pastolan, Philippines : rights not felt, not seen" : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
The fundamental development of indigenous peoples lies in the recognition of their rights to their traditional territories. This thesis seeks to examine the experiences of indigenous communities after the formal recognition of their land rights by their respective States. It explores whether this recognition has enabled indigenous communities to achieve optimum use of their lands, whether the land is used for traditional and/or other purposes.
The land rights of indigenous peoples are inextricably connected to their political, economic, and cultural rights. Thus, a framework embodying the political, economic, and cultural factors that influence the use of indigenous territories was used for data collection and analysis. Specifically, a case study was conducted on the Aytas of Pastolan, Philippines, involving six weeks of qualitative field research.
The results reveal a contradiction in the outcomes of the supposed ideals and intents of the formal title for the Aytas of Pastolan. While it guaranteed them the right to live within their territories, the title has not allowed the realisation of other rights emanating from their title, including the rights to fully access their lands and resources. Essentially, the positive gains of the title are lessened by the inadequate implementation of their land rights by the government, resulting to a continued denial of the exercise of the rights of the Aytas.
In conclusion, this study suggests looking beyond the indigenous land title, espousing varying ways to address the void which may emerge after the grant of the formal title, by dealing with each indigenous community distinctively in the enforcement of their rights under the title. It also calls for an assessment of the existing governing institutions of the community, that is, indigenous leadership and traditional decision-making regarding community affairs, as the community faces new challenges brought by the land title. Hence, these challenges demand institutional support, and this study joins other studies that argue a follow-up policy must be instituted, to make meaningful the land rights of indigenous communities.