Identity-Based Conflicts and the Politics of Identity in Eastern Mindanao

Authors: Francisco J. Lara, Jr. and Bianca Ysabelle Franco



In recent years, property rights concerning ancestral lands have been reinforced by legislation that enabled indigenous peoples (IPs) to lay claim over large tracts of land and negotiate the terms for their use. Secure property rights have long been argued as a crucial ingredient in economic growth and enduring peace. Yet, the conflict has continued to rise in the same areas where IP groups were placed in the driver’s seat and where new investments, development inputs, and royalty payments for the use of IPs’ ancestral lands have been secured. How is it then that a fragile peace continues to dominate in these areas despite the passage of a law recognizing ancestral land rights? The reasons cited for the impasse point to the institutional flaws and the weak capacity of actors to implement the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) uniformly and equitably. The challenge is also magnified by the enduring armed conflict in the countryside, particularly in ancestral lands, and the history of violence between rival IP groups. Drawing on an analysis of “extreme cases,” descriptive statistics, and other qualitative evidence, this paper shows that identity-based conflicts are inextricably linked to resourcerelated political violence and rebellion. It, therefore, argues that these factors explain the recurring violence more than the institutional weaknesses in the law. Overall, it concludes that the grant of ancestral rights is not a universal instrument that can end violent conflicts occurring in ancestral domain areas—especially those conflicts that are tied up to communal identities, embedded in grand narratives of resistance to the state.


identity, Mindanao, resource-based conflict, ancestral domain, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)

Recommended Citation:

Chicago Style:

Lara, Jr., Francisco J. and Bianca Ysabelle Franco. 2022. “Identity-Based Conflicts and the Politics of Identity in Eastern Mindanao.” Philippine Journal for Public Policy: Interdisciplinary Development Perspectives, 2022: 67–103.

American Psychological Association (APA) Style:

Lara, Jr., F.J., & Franco, B. (2022). Identity-based conflicts and the politics of identity in Eastern Mindanao. Philippine Journal for Public Policy: Interdisciplinary Development Perspectives, 2022: 67–103.

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