April 24, 2012

Cordillera: Statement For Cordillera Day 2012

On the occasion of Cordillera Day 2012, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance issued the following statement to express its demands.

Below is an article published by CPA:

Ilaban ti Daga, Biag ken Karbengan!

Fight for Our Land, Life and Rights!

We mark Cordillera Day 2012 with a rallying call to fight for our ancestral lands, our lives and human rights through a week of protest activities and celebrations of indigenous peoples’ struggles in Apayao, Abra, Benguet, Kalinga, Ifugao, the Mountain Province and Baguio City. On this 28th Cordillera Day,  let our protests echo with renewed vigor and commitment to defend our ancestral lands against development aggression. Let us strengthen and sustain our protests in the communities, town centers and urban areas. Let us build on our humble victories, remember the legacy of our heroes and martyrs, and prepare ourselves for challenges ahead.

Fight for Land…

Sustained people’s resistance has prevented many large mining companies from pursuing their operations and expansion in the Cordillera. The combined legal and political actions of the Bakun communities has delayed Royalco’sexploration for the Gambang Copper-Gold Project. The people of Gambang barricaded the road when Royalco attempted to bring its equipment into the area it had marked off for Phase III of its exploration. Still in  Benguet province, sustained community barricades have prevented Lepanto and the South African mining company Goldfields from conducting exploration drilling for the Far Southeast Gold Project.  Lepanto has also failed to secure local government endorsements for its expansion into Tadian, Bauko, Sagada, Bontoc and Sadanga the in Mountain Province. In Kalinga province, the Salegseg tribe and the local government of Tabuk maintain their opposition to Lepanto.  In Abra, Lepanto and the smaller firm Vegas have failed to enter Malibcong, where community opposition to large mining is solid and backed by the Roman Catholic Church.  

Opposition to large mining is widespread in Abra and has formally been registered with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) by the communities of Tubo, Bucloc, Baay-Licuan and Lacub.  In Lacub, though, Golden Lake – with the active collaboration of the Mayor, Vice Mayor, their private armies and the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army – has been trying to thwart the people’s will through coercion, bribery, and the manipulation of the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process. 

To strengthen our campaign for our peoples’ rights, we have established  broad networks such as the Benguet-Abra-Mountain Province-Ilocos Sur (BAMPIS) Mining Watch and the Northern Luzon-wide Amianan Salakniban. However, our communities must sustain their militancy in guarding against the following: Royalco drilling at Phase I in Bakun; Goldfields drilling for the expansion of Lepanto Tailings Dam 5A;  Solfotara’s renewal of its efforts to obtain FPIC from the peoples of Bucloc and Tubo, following its fraudulent acquisition of FPIC from the peoples of Boliney and Daguioman, Abra; Golden Lake’s continuing attempts to achieve the same in Lacub and repeat this in Tubo, Abra; the continuing efforts of Malibato-Freeport to enter Besao, Mountain Province; possible resumption of Makilala-Freeport’s exploration and ore extraction activities in Balatoc, Pasil, Kalinga; Freeport’s ongoing Field Based Investigation in Guinaang, Pasil; Nickel Asia’s renegotiation for FPIC in Buwaya, Balbalan.  Company security forces and pressure from collaborators in the local government has meanwhile forced some communities of Conner in Apayao to consent to Nickel Asia’s exploration. Vast hectares of land extending from Tineg southward to Sallapadan in Abra are now under threat from Grand Total.

Still on the mining front, small miners in Gold Creek, Ucab, Itogon have barricaded their mining location against a realtor who purchased the title to the land from Benguet Corporation (BC). BC’s old mining locations in Antamok and Acupan are still being worked by small miners under contract to Korean capitalists to whom BC has sold the rights to the remaining ore.  The ore is embedded in mine pillars, and extracting it is dangerous both to the miners and the communities occupying the surface.  BC has also sold its waste, impounded in several tailings dams in the vicinity of Antamok and Acupan, to a Chinese corporation.  Chinese and Korean firms are contracting the services of small miners in various parts of the Cordillera – most notably Patiacan in Quirino, Ilocos Sur, Mainit in Bontoc, Mountain Province, and Balatoc in Pasil, Kalinga – to mine copper ore as well as the gold and silver that invariably come with the copper.

Driven by consistently high world prices for gold and base metals like copper, small mining has spread throughout Cordillera.  One of the major challenges we face today is the transformation of intensive, anarchic and increasingly destructive small mining activities into a responsible village industry that is actively regulated by communities in accordance with the ecologically sound natural resource management systems which are traditional to their cultures.

There is a  surge of hydro and geothermal power projects in the region, propelled by offers of grants and loans from global financing institutions for the development of non-carbon energy sources. In Kalinga, the global giant Chevron is poised to open a vast complex of geothermal fields in Tinglayan, Pasil and Lubuagan but, denied the consent of the Dananao and Uma tribes, has been unable to complete its project’s FPIC requirements. Small companies are trying to get the technical and social preparations for other geothermal projects off the ground and will likely sell to Chevron, the sole geothermal power plant operator in the country, after completing these.  Their project sites include Mainit-Sadanga in the Mountain Province, just south of Tinglayan; Sallapadan-Bucloc-Boliney-Tubo just west of Tinglayan and Sadanga; Buguias-Tinoc in Benguet and Ifugao; Acupan also in Benguet.  However, one project, in Bokod, Benguet, has continually and consistently been opposed by the affected communities.

In the field of hydropower, the company Aboitiz stands out, with its subsidiaries SN Aboitiz Power, Luzon Hydro and Hedcor.  Using grants and loans extended by the World Bank and the Royal Norwegian Government, SN Aboitiz Power has been able to purchase three old megadams, Ambuclao, Binga, and Magat.  Luzon Hydro has been able to start operating its huge and extensive underground hydro, Bakun AC, disrupting the normal flow of water and wreaking havoc on agricultural production all the way from Bakun, Benguet to Alilem, Ilocos Sur.  In addition to another, run-of-the-river hydro that it has been operating in Bakun and seven other mini-hydros in the Baguio-Benguet area, Hedcor has ten more mini-hydro projects in the offing in Benguet plus one in the Mountain Province.  An Aboitiz monopoly of hydropower is clearly taking shape in the southern Cordillera.

Run-of-the-river mini-hydro projects are also underway in Tinoc, Kiangan and Lagawe, Ifugao and Balbalan, Kalinga. And there are plans for the construction of mini-hydros in Sagada, Sadanga, Barlig and Natonin in the Mountain Province.  While run-of-the-river hydropower projects are environment friendly, questions remain as to whether communities can retain control of their resources once they let the project   developers into their territories, and whether they can obtain just shares in the benefits from the use of these resources.

In Kalinga, three of the four hydro projects that have been awarded by the Department of Energy involve the construction of inherently destructive large dams.  Two of these are on the Pasil river, one on the Tanudan.  Nothing has yet taken place in connection with the Pasil dams, but the Tanudan dam has already generated considerable controversy.  The dam project proponent, Kalinga Hydropower, Inc. (KHI), has provided misleading information to the community in whose territory it aims to build the dam; tried to bribe this community with promises of economic gain; misrepresented itself as a local firm that the community itself incorporated; divided the Naneng, the tribe in which the community belongs; undermined the system of decision-making traditional to the Naneng and the neighboring tribes.  KHI has, in sum, violated the integrity and impaired the self-determination of the Naneng and the neighboring tribes.  Our protest has, however, derailed derailed its “social preparations” for the project.

Even the City of Baguio is not spared from environmental and economic threats. The giant corporation  SM is geared towards expanding its operations and building a parking facility that will wipe out the remaining pine and alnos trees in the city’s central business district.  Despite widespread protest by Baguio’s environmentalists, students, church people, and general populace, SM has been able to start taking down the trees primarily because of the collusion of key officials in the local government and the DENR.  If SM succeeds in  pursuing it, the project will have long-term impact on the environment and land rights of the people of Baguio. 

…Fight for Life

As militarization remains a constant companion to development aggression in the Cordillera, three regular and two special battalions of the AFP are deployed to areas where foreign interest in mining and energy is greatest.  The main AFP units operating in the region are the 503rd Brigade’s 41st Infantry Battalion (IB) in Abra and its 50th IB in Abra, Ilocos Sur and Benguet; the 501st Brigade’s 21st IB in Kalinga and its 54th IB in the Mountain Province and Ifugao; the 86th IB which is based in Ifugao but whose companies are distributed in various parts of the region; the 77th IB, the CAFGU Cadre Corps which is also distributed throughout the region; the 52nd and 53rd Division Reconnaisance Companies which are actually crack teams.  All are under the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Gamu, Isabela.  

Intense military operations have been taking place in Abra and its boundaries with the Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur – an area densely covered by mining applications.  The 41st and 50th IBs are in cahoots with local warlords in facilitating the entry of large mining in Abra.  In Tubo, Daguioman, Malibcong, Lacub and Tineg, they have been meddling in decision-making processes regarding large mining applications, trying to intimidate communities into granting consent.  

Under the regime’s Oplan Bayanihan, we have witnessed continuing rights violations in the Cordillera and elsewhere  in the country. Communities and progressive people’s organizations continue to be vilified as terrorists or terrorist fronts and attacked as military targets.  Extrajudicial killing, the militarization of communities and the filing of criminal charges against members and leaders of people’s organizations continue.  Clearly, Oplan Bayanihan is nothing but a continuation of Oplan Bantay Laya. Military operations  are carried out in the guise of “peace and development operations”, which are ultimately aimed at deceiving the people and hiding the military’s true intent of counter-insurgency and political repression.

Community life is disrupted and much terror is sown among civilians as the military detaches its forces to villages and conducts counter-insurgency operations.  In Tubo, Abra, the 50th IB has fired mortars on villages and burned forests in its desperation to inflict casualties on the NPA.  Elements of the 50th IB have also destroyed fences that prevented carabaos from  wandering off. As a result, several carabaos have fallen into ravines. The carabao is an important property for indigenous peasants, who are largely engaged in subsistence agriculture.  Bombing also took place in Tineg in 2011 and Balbalan, Kalinga in 2010; forest burning in Tineg in 2011, and in Malibcong and the Sagada-Besao area of the Mountain Province in 2010.  The AFP must be held accountable for  these environmental crimes and injustices committed against the indigenous peoples.  Other communities experiencing military brutality as a result of Oplan Bayanihan are those along the boundaries of Paracelis, Mountain Province and Alfonso Lista and Aguinaldo, Ifugao.

Alarming cases of vilification of innocent civilians have been documented throughout the region. Vilification – i.e., red-tagging or red-labeling and, worse, demonizing – is aimed not only at discrediting an individual or organization but at justifying actions that will harm them politically, morally or physically. Since Oplan Bantay Laya, the military has been using vilification to prepare the public to accept its extrajudicial killing, abduction, unlawful arrest, imprisonment and torture of specific individuals; its mutilation of the corpses of NPA fighters that it has slain in combat; its killing of civilians during combat operations and its laying siege to villages in areas where the NPA is active.  With Oplan Bayanihan, the military has extended the use of vilification to scaring students – particularly the scholars of the Kabataan, Act and Gabriela partylists – away from involvement in the progressive youth movement and into employment as civilian intelligence operatives in state colleges and universities.

The AFP has been violating children’s rights. It has been recruiting children into its barangay intelligence networks.  It has been encamping in schools, daycare centers and health centers throughout the region. In 2011, its soldiers forcibly detained Tineg elementary students in their classrooms and, shutting the doors and firing their weapons outside, scared the children into silence then lectured them against joining, supporting and listening to the NPA.  In Mainit, Bontoc, Mountain Province, soldiers beat up teenagers just for failing to behave towards them with respect.

As part of Oplan Bayanihan, the AFP extends services to children, such as free haircuts, free circumcision and the painting, repair or construction of their schools.  These activities are used to justify the AFP’s unlawful encampment in schools, daycare centers and health centers.  They are also vital to the AFP’s propaganda campaign – particularly to projecting soldiers as the servants of the common people rather than the protectors of the interests of the ruling classes.

The AFP’s soldiers have raped, and sexually and morally abused many women. The latest incident took place just last February, when Captain Danilo Lalin, formerly of the 50th IB and now of the 86th, abducted a pretty 16-year old high school student in Mankayan, drugged her and brought her to a series of military camps where she was gang-raped.  Previously, Lalin seduced another Mankayan girl, also just 16 years old.  Another rape occurred in Lacub in 2011, along with numerous instances of seduction followed by abandonment.  Similar incidents have been reported in Kalinga and the Mountain Province.  The cases are so numerous, it now seems like the sexual degradation of community women is integral to the AFP’s political repression strategy and counter-insurgency tactics.  

The paramilitary group that calls itself the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) is making a comeback.  One faction – that led by Mailed Molina of Abra – hires its members out to mining companies as private security forces.  Another – that led by Arsenio Humiding of Ifugao – creates livelihood for its members using a 35 million peso budget from Malacañang.  It is allotted a separate budget managed by the AFP for the projects undertaken in coordination with local government units. This in spite of its record of crime, including the abduction and killing of CPA leaders like Ama Daniel Ngayaan and Romy Gardo, the instigation of tribal wars, extortion and various acts of violence perpetrated on civilians. 

As in the 1980s, the CPLA is once again aggressively creating opportunities for itself with the third attempt at creating a law for an autonomous Cordillera region.

On this matter, CPA iterates that  regional autonomy can only be genuine if it addresses indigenous peoples’ particular problem of national oppression. Genuine regional autonomy is based on indigenous peoples’ rights and the right to self-determination or the right to freely decide on their social,  cultural, political and economic life. This includes genuine people–based development on livelihood, social services and the economy. Regional autonomy must be understood in its full substance as the exercise of self-determination, not just devolution or decentralization of governance powers and administration. Neither is it only about funds and projects, and it should not dismember the Cordillera as one integral region of dominantly indigenous peoples. Like the past two failed attempts of traditional politicians and a few ruling elite to create an autonomous Cordillera region, this third attempt, now dubbed House Bill 5595, is bogus regional autonomy, and is oriented at facilitating further plunder of indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands by capitalist projects, and thereby aggravating the violation of rights  of the Cordillera peoples. House Bill 5595 gives teeth to the national government’s program for a liberalized mining industry, and will accelerate the plunder of the Cordillera.   Thus, we challenge and appeal to legislators, especially the Cordillera congressmen, to heed the people’s clamor and not insist on bogus regional autonomy. Only when indigenous peoples’ rights are respected and recognized can we truly build the blocks for genuine regional autonomy. Large mining, militarization, vilification and the plunder of the Cordillera must first stop. 

The entry of large destructive projects show clearly the State’s continuing policy of using the Cordillera region as a resource base for massive plunder and super profits. Sixty-six percent or about 1.2 million hectares of the region’s 1.8 million hectare-land area is presently blanketed with overlapping mining applications. The applications and expansion of large mines are clear manifestations that the Aquino II regime is continuing the programs and policies of the discredited Arroyo regime..  The surge of energy projects is clearly there to provide the energy and power supply of the big mines and other capitalist investments. In the course of desperate attempt to enter our Cordillera communities, these development aggression projects have violated indigenous peoples’ inherent right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent and collective rights to ancestral land and resources.  In the numerous and various cases of rights violations, the State military is an accomplice of these large transnational corporations.   Large mines and energy projects will surely aggravate the effects and impact of the climate crisis, which in turn will adversely affect indigenous peoples whose lives and culture are deeply entwined and rooted in the land and its resources.

On top of these urgent issues is government’s aggressive tourism program that commercializes, misrepresents and disrespects indigenous peoples’ culture, which to us is sacred, as our way of life and as our distinct identity. 

Like the majority of Filipinos, the majority of people in the Cordillera region suffer from worsening poverty and hunger due to the economic crisis. Wages and salaries are way too insufficient to meet the daily cost of living, yet  prices of basic commodities, services and transportation  keep rising, as a result of the deregulated oil industry. In the Cordillera, minimum daily wage is pegged at P260, yet P941 is needed so that a family of 6 can survive daily, decently. Oil prices increased over 9 times since January 2012, plunging the ordinary Filipino into deeper poverty and hunger. As in other parts of the country, there is a lack of secure and stable employment in the region, while those employed are continually confronted with massive retrenchment and contractualization.

Under the Aquino II regime, the economic and political crisis is as entrenched as ever, with PNoy bearing little or no difference at all from the Arroyo regime, with continuing policies of State terrorism and liberalization of the Philippine economy.  All these add to the challenges that Cordillera indigenous peoples face, apart from the increasingly aggressive incursions on our ancestral domains.

These developments at the regional level show that the present Aquino regime has done nothing to improve the situation of Cordillera indigenous peoples. It has done the complete opposite, by actively selling out our national patrimony to transnational corporations, and sustaining State terrorism. PNOy continues to use military terrorism, like the regime before him, to secure the State’s political and economic interests, much to the suffering and violation of people’s rights. PNOy’s continuing policy of plunder and militarization are paving the way to ethnocide of the Cordillera indigenous peoples. Like other puppet regimes before him, PNoy’s policies and programs demonstrate subservience to imperialist globalization and the US-led war of terror.

There is mounting public discontent, as PNoy’s “matuwid na daan” and “kayo ang boss ko” amounted to nothing. Deceptive programs like the conditional cash transfer and pantawid pasada program do not at all improve the ordinary Filipino’s standard of living. What the people need is immediate relief from the economic hardship that is plunging them deeper into greater hunger and poverty.

…Fight for Our Rights !

These developments depict continuing and worsened national oppression for us indigenous peoples, on top of the unbearable economic hardship and political crisis we face as Filipinos.  Thus, we must resist fiercely, fight for our human dignity, and defend our ili, ancestral domain, our environment and natural resources.

This Cordillera Day 2012, our cries to defend our land, life, honor and rights must resonate in the numerous protest celebrations in Apayao, Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Kalinga and Baguio City.  We will seal Cordillera Day 2012 with covenants and declarations against mining, militarization, energy projects, agricultural liberalization and environmental destruction.  We must step up our protests at all levels, using various forms of mass actions, advocacy, networking, legislation and lobbying.

Let us celebrate our victories, at the same time pay tribute to all those who sacrificed their lives for the struggle. We must fight for our survival and honor, for the sake of generations yet to come. We must strengthen our unity and solidarity as a people together with other oppressed and exploited classes against a common enemy. We must assert our human rights and our self-determination as a people in the form of genuine Cordillera regional autonomy within a sovereign and democratic Philippines. 

Cordillera Day 2012 is a living testament to the Cordillera peoples’ relentless fight for our land, lives, and rights. ***

Cordillera Peoples Alliance 

For the Defense of the Ancestral Domain and for Self Determination

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