Antipolo Local Alliance: Multi-stakeholder collaboration between CSOs, the LGU, and the Indigenous Peoples
The launch of ZEP2030 in 2015 initially focused on the seven thematic clusters that anchored their targets on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, namely: agriculture and fisheries, education, environment, health, housing and shelter, livelihood, and partnerships for indigenous peoples (PIP). The forming of the clusters was a method to target the specific needs of each community the movement aspired to foster. The convergence in Antipolo City was a culmination of the PIP cluster. While it was initially envisioned to be a cluster to address the needs of the indigenous peoples in Antipolo City, it eventually evolved into one of the first few local convergences thriving under ZEP2030.
The Antipolo City Local Alliance emerged from the collaborative work between Smart Communications, Inc. (SMART), Center for Conservation Innovations (CCI), and Assisi Development Foundation, Inc. (ADF). ADF, the first Secretariat of ZEP2030 from 2016 to 2018 is a non-profit organization that operates a holistic strategy in addressing poverty through providing educational support, organizing feeding programs, building water sheds, supplying agricultural equipment and training, empowering indigenous communities, among others. It also headed the PIP cluster from 2016 to 2020.
Prior to ADF’s engagement, SMART and CCI were already present in Antipolo City attempting to address sustainability in the local communities strafed by Typhoon Ondoy. Their Forest Families initiative was a way to help facilitate and organize rehabilitation and ecosystem stability through family-based approaches in the areas of Purok Tayabasan, Purok Canumay, Purok Casunugan, and Purok Libis of Sitio San Ysiro, Barangay San Jose. This populated to around 268 families from the Dumagat Tribe as reported by their initial poverty diagnostics research. The conversations between SMART and ADF paved the way to ADF’s ingress in the partnership. However, it was not long after that the trio came to realize that a more integrated approach was needed to address the poverty crisis and overall sustainability in the area.
From 2017 to 2019, the Antipolo City Local Alliance underwent a more comprehensive congregation of local leaders and partners. Thus, officially building the Antipolo Local Alliance. In 2017, the areas under Forest Families were also selected to be ZEP2030’s pilot areas. It was this year where the cluster focused on identifying active CSOs, NCIP, and other interested stakeholders within the locale. Further fortifying the convergence, the alliance also riveted with the local government office. Impressed by the drive of the movement, the local government included ZEP2030 in the local development investment plan (LDIP) which propelled it to process the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) and the Ancestral Domain of Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP), and to build health centers and learning centers in the locality. Subsequently, the cluster administered participatory visioning and planning exercises to get a closer look at the needs of the Dumagat Communities. By 2018, the alliance was ready to implement articulated plans collaboratively. In 2019, they were ready to expand their network and involve others who were ready to pledge commitment.
Implementing collective impact in Antipolo City
From its inception, the Antipolo Local Alliance was able to carry out various action plans.
From the result of the Participatory Visioning and Planning, the alliance recognized the IP communities’ need for agricultural resources, access to education, land security, recognition of rights, political participation, etc. In less than five years, the collaboration of the leaders and the stakeholders effectively confronted the concerns of the communities and established interventions that addressed land security, sustainable agriculture, education, health, and livelihood. Infrastructures were built in both Purok Libis and Purok Tayabasan. Respectively, a day care center, a health center, a tribal hall, a water system and a library in Purok Libis; a learning center, a tribal hall, and a water system in Purok Tayabasan. Select youth from the community were given scholarship opportunities and educational assistance to pursue a collegiate degree. Two-way radios and satellite phones were dispensed equipping the IPs gadgets to enable efficient communication with one another. In support of their livelihoods, farming tools and equipment were also distributed in supplement of the agricultural training facilitated.
With all these arranged, the alliance holds monthly meetings to take stock, share updates, and monitor and evaluate each activity carried out. Joining these conversations are the chief leaders of the Dumagat Tribe who share their experiences and viewpoints.
What were the challenges?
While the Antipolo City Convergence displayed an admirable demonstration of what a ZEP2030 local convergence might be, it still grappled with its own obstacles.
The community was not initially receptive to the ZEP2030 and raised questions from the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) and some tribe members. To overcome this, ADFI signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the NCIP in a pact to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples. The involvement of the local government played a crucial role
Be that as it may, IP lands are still at risk due to Pajero Farmers who buy or rent land from inclined tribe members who use the profit earned to sustain their livelihood.
Present-day, the convergence faces a new challenge: a change in leadership. The partnership between ADFI and the local government played a crucial role in making the convergence successful. While it was ADFI who initially tapped the pilot areas, the LGU, specifically the MSWDO, acted as the convenor of the alliance. However, reorganization of strategies and staff members that happened during the 2019 lockdown both led to the abdication of both’s engagement in the alliance. Currently, ADFI is now focusing on other areas that could benefit other communities and LGUs.
The future of the Antipolo Convergence
The Antipolo City Convergence still has a long road ahead of it. It desperately needs a new champion to lead the convergence and reconvene the stakeholders to further strengthen and unify the Indigenous Political Structures (IPS), CSOs, and local government offices in the area. The convergence might also need to identify other NGOs and consider other sectors, such as faith-based organizations, to spearhead and organize the alliance.