Limits to indigenous participation: The Agta and the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, the Philippines

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Increased attention for indigenous rights in relation to nature conservation has in the Philippines resulted in legislation formalizing indigenous peoples' participation in protected area management. We discuss the implementation of this legislation, based on the case of the Agta inhabiting the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park. The Agta are hunter-gatherers who settle along the coasts and rivers of northeast Luzon. Being indigenous to the park, they hold one third of the seats in its management board. However, our content analysis of this management board's meetings, combined with qualitative observations of the Agta's position in the park, show that their participation in its management is hampered by socio-cultural, practical, financial and political barriers. We demonstrate that formalizing indigenous participation in protected area management is not enough to break through existing power structures that inhibit marginalized stakeholders to defense of their interests in natural resources against those of more powerful actors.

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