Cordillera Day 2014: Central Statement

 Resist Imperialist Plunder of our Land and Resources!                                                     Assert our Right to Self Determination!

 “You ask if we own the land and mock us iwhere is your title? When we query the meaning of your words you answer with haunting arrogance ‘where are the documents to prove that you own the land?’. Such arrogance to speak of owning the land when you shall be owned by it. How can you own that which will outlive you? Only the race owns the land because only the race lives forever”. – Macliing Dulag-

 Cordillera Day through the Years

Thirty-four years ago, Macliing Dulag died a people’s hero and martyr, in defense of the ili and the ancestral land from the Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dam Project of the World Bank during the Marcos Dictatorship. It was a successful fight against imperialist plunder and a triumphant assertion of indigenous peoples’ self-determination. Ama Macliing’s martyrdom was commemorated as the Macliing Memorials from 1981 to 1984. Since 1985 with the birth of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), the Macliing Memorials were held as Cordillera Day and hosted in many villages of every Cordillera province; with a focused theme every year, that reflects issues of the current Cordillera situation and the people’s movement. This year 2014, we remember Ama Macliing and all heroes and martyrs of the Cordillera people’s struggle. We commemorate Cordillera Day 2014 or the the 30th Cordillera Day with local celebrations in the provinces of Ifugao and Abra, and a regional centralised celebration in Brgy. Guinaang, Pasil, Kalinga province. In the light of worsening plunder of our lands and resources and violation of our individual and collective human rights, the central theme of Cordillera Day 2014 is Resist Imperialist Plunder of our Lands and Resources! Assert our Right to Self-Determination!


Impoverishment due to Government Neglect and Resource Exploitation

The Cordillera regions remain among the most marginalized in the entire country, in spite of the natural resources the region is endowed with. Government data states that the provinces of Ifugao and Apayao are among the poorest in the Philippines, and that the region is among those with the slowest growth in Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP), from 3.6% in 2011 to 1% in 2012. Government’s National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) ranks the region sixth highest among all the regions in the Philippines, with a poverty incidence of families at 22.6% and 28.75 % poverty incidence among population. Poverty threshold is pegged at P9,734 a month for a family of five yet minimum daily wage in the region is not even close to this figure, not even among workers in industrial areas in the Benguet-La Trinidad-Itogon-Tuba (BLIST) area who receive a minimum daily wage of Php 280.00 and Php262.00 to Php 246.00 in the agricultural sector. Thus, the real poverty incidence should be higher than government figures. While the Cordillera is a resource base of foreign and local capitalists for plunder and exploitation, facilitated by the State since colonization, the Cordillera region continues to receive the lowest budget allocation in the national budget. Such government neglect further manifests in the   absence or lack of basic infrastructure like roads or water systems and social services like schools or health centers, especially in far-flung communities,.

Government response to the poverty situation in the Cordillera and the rest of the country are false solutions and do not address the roots of under or no development in the Cordillera. These are the dole out Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive Integrated Delivery of Social Service (KALAHI-CIDSS). These are palliatives and do not substantially alleviate widespread poverty and underdevelopment. Worse, these false solutions become further opportunities for bureaucrat corruption, which is entrenched in government. In 2014 alone, government budget allocation for the 4Ps is Php 262 billion and Php 44.3 billion in 2013. In self-reliant genuine people’s development, such resources should be allotted for support to appropriate agriculture development with rural infrastructure, and national industrialization that creates jobs for people to have decent livelihoods; and thus truly address the poverty situation.


Marginalisation of Indigenous Peasants and Liberalisation of Agriculture

The majority of the Cordillera population who are indigenous peasants experience worsening poverty and crisis. Agriculture is the major livelihood of our people. But traditional sustainable features of indigenous Cordillera agriculture have not been nurtured, i.e. indigenous rice varieties and self reliant root crops. Government agriculture policy in the Cordillera has largely been for chemical based vegetables, rice/corn cash crops that may have periods of boom but is not sustainable. Increasing cost of inputs resulted in chemical pollution of agricultural lands that would take years to detoxify, and flooding of the local market with rice,vegetable, and fruit imports or dumping as a consequence of imperialist globalization’s agricultural liberalization, and government compliance to terms of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

This is expected to worsen with government’s recent compliance to the terms of AFTA (Asean Free Trade Area), because the deceptive so-called “level playing field” of imperialist globalization whether in agriculture, trade, or investments definitely favor the developed countries and is to the detriment of undeveloped countries. It is time to actively expose such deception. Expensive agrochemicals, hybrid and genetically modified seeds, and invasive species that benefit first world transnational corporations are aggressively promoted and marketed for profit in the third world to the detriment of organic sustainable agriculture with food crops that should address basic food sufficiency. These  cause debt and bankruptcy of farmers, pollute our environment and health; and also cause extinction of superior indigenous varieties of rice and other food crops, on which Cordillera villages have traditionally relied on for their food security. Also, a common farmers’ issue is inadequate government subsidy to agriculture, yet so much funds like the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) are corrupted, benefitting only an elite few within government and their accomplices outside government.

Development Aggression

The Cordillera is swamped by destructive corporate energy projects such as geothermal plants, mega dams, mini-hydro and wind farms planned in different parts of the region that promise huge profits for corporations; but threaten more destruction for our people and the environment. Our major rivers were dammed and our communities displaced to generate electricity for industries and consumers tied to the Luzon Grid. Yet despite having given up homes, rivers and lands for the construction of these dams, affected communities, like in Benguet, were only belatedly benefitted by electrification. A total of 88 hydropower projects, 8 geothermal projects and 1 wind energy project are planned for implementation. These include the Benguet-Acupan geothermal project, Buguias-Tinoc geothermal, Ifugao-Hungduan geothermal project, Kalinga-Batong buhay geothermal, Barlig-Sadanga geothermal project, Sallapada-Boliney-Bucloc-Tubo geothermal project, Pudtol geothermal, and Chevron geothermal application poised to open a vast complex of geothermal fields in Tinglayan, Pasil and Lubuagan, Kalinga. Chevron is a global energy giant with a clear record of notorious violations of indigenous peoples’ rights and human rights in its areas of operation in the Amazon, North America, Asia and Africa, and has clear FPIC violations in its Kalinga application.

The Cordillera land area of 1, 829,369 hectares is blanketed with a total of 287 various and overlapping mining applications and 177 patented mining claims. Exploration Permits and Mineral Sharing Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) permits and other permits cover 32, 623.6 hectares while applications under process total 773, 570. 46 hectares. Like the applicants for large energy projects, foreign and local mining corporations compete to expand their operations and process new applications sometimes under different names. For instance, apart from its expansion operations in Mankayan with South African mining company Goldfields, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company plans to expand in other Benguet municipalities, Mountain Province, Kalinga, Apayao, Abra and Ifugao using the following names: Olpaten, Eltopan, Horizon, Lindslay and Mount Franz Patrick. Fortunately, Lepanto expansion applications have not yet progressed due to complaints filed by affected landowners. In addition, the following mining companies that are subsidiaries of foreign mining companies are pursuing their applications in different parts of the region: Freeport McMoran subsidiaries Malibato and Makilala in Besao, Mountain Province and Guinaang, Pasil, Kalinga, the host of the centralised Cordillera Day celebration this year; Australian mining company Royalco in Bakun, Benguet; Solfotara, DaGamma, Columbus, Canex and Adanecex in Abra and Benguet and Nickel Asia in Kalinga and Apayao. Benguet Corporation continues to engage in contract mining in Itogon, while Philex resumed its operations after settling the fines imposed by certain government agencies. Philex recently gave in to the Tuba and Itogon LGUs and agreed to pay P200M worth of unpaid taxes—a far cry from the Php 1.3 B fine being imposed by the said LGUs.

There is community opposition in Gold Creek, Itogon, Benguet versus a certain Peralejo who planned to evict the community small-scale miners in the area. Community members are maintaining their barricade to defend their remaining resources and livelihood source. In Bakun municipality, communities are on their guard and are ready to resume the barricades should Royalco renew its permits for Gambang I and II and resume its project in the area. Royalco sold its mining claim in Bakun to Brazilian mining company Vale.


Connivance of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)

Meanwhile, the manipulation of government processes by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for obtaining Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) has caused human rights violations and divisions in indigenous communities targeted by mining and energy corporations. Community consent for destructive projects is forcibly secured by the government and private corporations, rather than freely given by the people. Concrete experience of communities and recent studies show that the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the NCIP have been used as instruments for development aggression by large corporations, rather than for the protection of indigenous people’s rights. For instance in Guinaang, Pasil, Kalinga; the NCIP provincial office deceived the people into signing a resolution of consent in favor of Makilala. Full information that is necessary for the community to make an informed decision was not provided. Even if the Guinaang tribe already has its own Council of Elders, NCIP created a fake council of elders, to represent the tribe and manipulate the resolution of consent. Tribal leaders petitioned the NCIP to issue a temporary restraining order against the FPIC process over Makilala’s application. Yet NCIP claims that there are no FPIC process irregularities. Such blatant manipulation of pro indigenous people’s processes end up subverting indigenous people’s rights and self determination, in this case on land and resources. Within such present reality, the proposed bill for Regional Autonomy will end up like NCIP, as tool of the ruling elite; thus the call for its rejection.

Insidious Militarization and Killing of Civilians

The people’s continuing opposition to development aggression has become a national internal security issue under Oplan Bayanihan. Villages have become virtual encampments of the military, and their operations and bombing have caused numerous human rights violations and have terrified the civilian population. Development workers have been terrorized and vilified and the delivery of people’s projects threatened. Thus, a campaign for “Defense of Development Workers” was earlier launched by Cordillera activists. Yet with Oplan Bayanihan, brutality and murder would still afflict Cordillera activists and communities. In the first week of March 2014, elements of the 41st Infantry Battalion in Abra massacred a family of local leaders who are members of a local farmers’ organization which is an affiliate of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) chapter in Abra province, KASTAN (Kakailian Salakniban Tay Amin a a Nagtaudan). Brothers Fermin and Eddie, and their aging father Licuben were found dumped in a shallow grave, piled on top of each other. Their hands were bound and their mouths gagged. They are of the Binongan tribe. On March 25, State assassins gunned down Ifugao community leader and human rights worker William Bugatti, also a member of CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA). These extrajudicial killings were executed after the victims had been harassed, vilified, and persecuted by the military and their propagandists as NPA or supporters of the NPA. Bugatti was even listed in the “Target List” of the 86th Infantry Battalion of the military. Like the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) killings and terrorism against the militant Cordillera mass movement during the time of Cory Aquino, there is also highlighted human rights violations with abominable killing of Cordillera activists in this presidency of Benigno Aquino. At a national scale, 44 indigenous activists were slain since Pres. Benigno Aquino III assumed power.

AFP troops have even militarized the delivery of development and humanitarian services as these are utilized for counter insurgency under the pretext of “peace and development.” Government’s PAMANA (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan) is supposed to be the national government’s “peace and development program” in areas of armed conflict in the country. But PAMANA militarizes development and social services. It is another opportunity for corruption. And in the Cordillera, it exclusively favors the paramilitary Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA). The government rewarded the CPLA with more than P200 million worth of projects. Obviously, PAMANA is meant to prop up the counter-insurgency strategy of Oplan Bayanihan, and fails to seriously address the problems of genuine development, which are among the roots of the armed conflict in the Philippines. On the other hand, for the wider perspective of achieving national reconciliation and genuine peace, government has discontinued Peace Talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF; although it has advanced peace negotiations with the MILF.

As part of the Filipino nation, Cordillera indigenous peoples suffer more hardships due to the national economic and political crisis, as well as sovereignty issues like U.S. Visiting forces and China encroachment . The pressing problems of hunger, joblessness, injustice, violation of democratic rights, bureaucratic corruption and other excesses of the ruling elite system are day to day burning issues of Philippine society; thus the sustained and vibrant local to national mass movement ardently seeking change .


Challenge and Calls

The challenge of the relatively unchanged Cordillera and national situation is for perseverance and more aggressive militant people’s struggles for genuine national social change and genuine regional autonomy where democracy and social justice reigns.


Genuine Regional Autonomy as political expression of Cordillera people’s struggle for self determination is our aspiration, but this is to be realized in its own historical time; when necessary systemic changes shall have been achieved that truly upholds democracy and defend our land and resources for the people. There can not be valid and worthy regional autonomy in a State that is complicit in the continuing plunder of   our land and resources; as well as in un abated human rights violations with extra judicial killing of activists. We call on the proponents of the current bill on Cordillera Regional Autonomy, especially politicians and bureaucrats in power to shelve the proposed Autonomy bill; and instead join us in urgently addressing these concrete issues that subvert and violate our right to self determination. This would help build fundamental unity on Regional Autonomy that is meaningful to the people, instead of mere formulations like the bill that maybe useful only for the elite in society.


OUST PNOY NOW! is a stirring cry from the victims of un abated human rights violations. The Cordillera people’s movement joins the snowballing call for the ouster of Pres. Aquino II for the increasing human rights violations especially killing of indigenous peoples activists during his presidency; and have a government (GPH) that substantially address basic Cordillera and national concerns, and that sincerely pursues Peace Talks with the NDF.


More than ever, the Cordillera militant people’s movement commit to pursue the historic “ Defense of Land, Life and Resources” for present and for future generations. We cannot do less, and we continue to be inspired by the legacy of kayaw or “all out people’s struggle”, defined by our martyrs during the Chico Dam opposition, which was famously stated:


“What is the most precious thing to man? Life! If life is threatened, what ought a man do? Fight! This he must do, otherwise he is dis honored. That will be worse than death. If we do not fight and the dams push through, we die anyway. If we fight, we die honorably. Thus I exhort you all then, “KAYAW!” -Macliing Dulag


Thus, on the 30th Cordillera Day, let us be inspired and live out the glorious history of the Cordillera indigenous peoples’ struggle for land, life and honor. ***



For the Defense of the Ancestral Domain and for Self-Determination

April 24, 2014