9 August 2015

No Recourse but Struggle for Self-Determination

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 dishonored. 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, kayaw (struggle)! –Macliing Dulag, Kalinga Chieftain

 34 years ago since the successful opposition of the Bontoc and Kalinga peoples to the World Bank-funded Chico Dams, this challenge penned in the words of Macliing Dulag, one of the many elders who led our people in asserting right to land and life, remains true, current, and inspirational as we join fellow indigenous peoples in celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9.  Indeed, the story of the Chico struggle is a timeless example of self-determining indigenous communities.

We celebrate landmark victories at the international level, such as the declaration of August 9 itself as international IP Day by the UN General Assembly, the establishment of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),  the establishment of UN mechanisms for the recognition of IP rights such as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Rights.

More importantly, we salute the communities on the ground that gave breathe to movements for the recognition of indigenous peoples rights and self-determination. On this note CPA conveys its utmost solidarity and salutes all indigenous communities in other parts of the world and in our home country struggling for ancestral land rights,  life and dignity against the backdrop of  development aggression, State terrorism  and neoliberal globalisation.

From Tinoc, Ifugao, to Pasil and Tanudan in Kalinga to Mankayan and Kapangan in Benguet, to Lacub  in Abra; to Mountain Province and Apayao, communities are asserting right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in the face of  the collusion of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) with some local government units and officials, energy and mining giants such as Hedcor, SN Aboitiz, Quadriver, Sta. Clara, Chevron and Far South Gold Fields, Golden Lake Mineral Resources and more. These self-determining practices of communities and their organisations exemplify good practices that other communities with similar issues can draw lessons from.

We continue to rally our kakailian in defense of life and genuine peace, in the face of Oplan Bayanihan unleashing terror in our communities, resulting to atleast 50 cases of extrajudicial killings of indigenous peoples since 2011, 16 incidents of forced evacuation of indigenous peoples involving approximately 9,754 individuals, including peasant settlers. Occurring in indigenous communities in 7 provinces in Mindanao, these evacuations were triggered by massive and prolonged military operations, suspected to be clearing operations to pave the way for the entry of mining and logging companies.

Oplan Bayanihan in the Cordillera is the story of the Ligiw Massacre in Abra, the extrajudicial killing of William Bugatti in Ifugao, the continuing political vilification against activists and human rights defenders, and the grave violations to International Humanitarian Law as in the incident in Lacub, Abra. These are crimes not only against indigenous peoples, but against humanity.  How indigenous communities confronted these events and how they moved on with determination is worth emulating, and another good practice of self-determination.

As we celebrate IP Day, we reflect on the challenges and victories indigenous communities have confronted in the Cordillera peoples’ struggle for self-determination. Let us remember our heroes and martyrs and draw inspiration from their lives of sacrifice, in defense of our cultural heritage, ancestral lands and human rights.  Let us continue to take pride in our culture and identity while building solidarity and unity with other sectors and advocates in advancing our common goal for   genuine peace and development.

For until our right to self-determination is recognised, and genuine regional autonomy  in place under a truly sovereign Philippines the only recourse for indigenous peoples is to press onward with the struggle. Sulong, mga katribu!***

Reference: ATB Anongos, Secretary General