To the Cordillera People’s Alliance and the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC), Inc.

It is with great delight that the Province of East Flanders and Solidagro are given the opportunity to deliver a message of solidarity to the people of the Cordillera’s on the occasion of Cordillera Day 2016.

The theme “Advance Indigenous Peoples’ Struggle for Self-Determination! Onward with the Politics of Change!” is a very relevant theme amidst the ever advancing globalization that puts increasing pressure on self-determination of cultural minorities and even countries. Developing countries, as the Philippines, experience firsthand the ills that come with globalization such as destructive mining, liberalization of agriculture and land grabbing and destruction of the environment. But it is the most vulnerable sectors that suffer the most. They suffer from hunger, lack of economic opportunity, lack of social services, and intimidation, arrest and sometimes even death for those who struggle for the legitimate right to participation.

Throughout the years of struggle, Cordillera has seen many martyrs, yet the Cordillera people have always remained persistent in their peaceful struggle for self-determination. This peaceful struggle has seen setbacks, but has also many victories, both big and small. From strengthening community organizations, developing leaders – men, women and youth – who are capable of leading these communities in their struggles, attaining levels of food security that make communities self-reliant from expensive external inputs, up to being able to stop big destructive development projects like the Chico Dam in the past. In the midst of so much suffering we should never lose sight of the small victories because these are important sources of inspiration for others.

The Province of East Flanders and Solidagro, who are supporting the development of the Cordillera people for already more than 20 years recognize the capability of the leaders in the Cordillera to lead the people to more victories. Both also recognize their capability to ally with the progressive sectors in the government. We have seen, also in our most recent visit in February this year, that CDPC and the social movement can struggle for the rights of the poor in a peaceful manner.

In our visits to local government units, we have advocated that we believe in the work of CDPC and the CPA. We hope that in the upcoming elections all the development efforts will bear fruits and the Cordillera will get more local government units that truly represent the aspirations of the poor.

Organizations as CPA and CDPC must have the freedom to organize people because forming organizations, and standing up for the rights of the most vulnerable, is a universal right, a right that needs to be respected.