Indigenous Peoples’ Enterprise on Honey Gets Boost from Int’l Body


From left: Tagbanua member Loreta Alsa, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director-General Francis Gurry, International Trade Center Deputy Executive Director Dorothy Tempo, and International Organization for Migration (IOM) Director-General Ambassador Evan P. Garcia on the first day of worskshop. (Geneva PM photo)

GENEVA 13 December 2019 — On the margins of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) General Assemblies, the Philippine Mission to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva organized a panel discussion entitled, “IP for IP: Intellectual Property for Indigenous Peoples” in October 2019.

The discussion aims to raise awareness about the initiatives that the country had taken to protect the works of indigenous peoples, such as the grant of a collective mark for T’nalak and the signing of a Joint Administrative Order between the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines.

Loreta Alsa, a member of the indigenous people of Tagbanua in Palawan, was hopeful when she submitted her application for a one-week program newly launched in Geneva by the WIPO, a specialized agency of the United Nations dealing with global cooperation on matters like patent, trademark, and copyright.

Alsa wanted to create a brand to commercialize honey produced using the traditional methods of her community. Envisioning a product that enjoyed name recall and ample market presence, she submitted a paper on the application of “Indigenous Knowledge, Skills And Practices to Traditional Honey Harvesting Practices” that formed the foundation of their community-based forestry enterprise.

Eventually selected by WIPO to take part in the Practical Workshop on Intellectual Property for Women Entrepreneurs from Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, which opened on 11 November 2019,  Alsa joined 23 other international participants in a project-based training program aimed at building capacities for developing and marketing the products of indigenous peoples. The program includes continuous mentoring in the home countries of the participants.

“Nais ko na maipagpatuloy ang lahat ng aking natutunan para mas ma-develop pa nang husto ang produktong honey mula sa mga katutubong Palawan at Tagbanua. Sila ang mga tribu na nag-haharvest na tinutulungan naming.” (I want to continue what I have learned to further develop the honey products from the native Palawan and Tagbanua communities. They are the tribe who are harvesting, and we are helping), Alsa said, who currently works with the Non-Timber Forest Product Exchange Program as an officer assisting indigenous peoples in the crafting and implementation of development and conservation plans for their ancestral domain.

“Loreta demonstrates why the Philippines continues to advocate for an international instrument that will protect genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions,” Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva Ambassador Evan Garcia said.

“The unique circumstances of indigenous peoples, whose collective knowledge and skills have been passed down and improved from generation to generation, require specialized approaches to intellectual property protection. This is why I laud WIPO for designing a program that seeks to help women entrepreneurs from this sector and maximize the opportunities available in the current, though imperfect, landscape,” he added.

The Philippines was instrumental in adding the concept of “free and prior informed consent” in ongoing discussions about a possible international instrument on the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples. The concept emphasizes the importance of consultation and engagement in policy matters that affect indigenous peoples and is a key feature of the 1997 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of the Philippines. END

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