Plunder and State Terrorism:
Baay-Licuan, Abra hosts Cordillera Day 2008
Cordillera Day 2008 or the 24th Cordillera Day
Celebration takes places in Brgy. Poblacion, Baay-Licuan, one of
the 27 municipalities of Abra province. This is hosted by Kakailian
Salakniban Tay Amin a Nagtaudan (KASTAN), the Cordillera Peoples
Alliance's Abra chapter, and BALITOK or the Baay-Licuan Takderan
Omnu a Karbengan. Baay-Licuan is part of the ancestral domain of
the Binongan indigenous peoples.
From the provincial capital of Bangued, which is
an 8-hour drive from Metro Manila, and a 6-hour drive from Baguio
City, it takes 4 hours to reach Brgy. Poblacion.
Baay Licuan Municipality
Baay-Licuan is bounded in the north by Lacub municipality, to the
east by Malibcong, to the South by Sallapadan and Daguioman, and
by Bucay and Lagangilang to the west. It is composed of 11 barangays,
namely: Bonglo, Bulbulala, Caoayan, Dominglay, Lenneng, Mapisla,
Mogao, Nalbuan, Poblacion, Subagan, and Tumalip.
Baay-Licuan is generally mountainous and forested,
with an elevation ranging from 200 to 1,400 meters above sea level.
The terrain is naturally upland and hilly. The mountain ranges are
rich with mineral deposits such as gold, copper and silver. Baay
and Licuan were two separate municipalities until these were fused
Baay-Licuan's climate is characterized by the dry
season from November to April, and by the wet season from the months
of May to October. The minimum and maximum temperatures recorded
are 23.3 'C and 31.2'C, respectively. Of the total agricultural
area, more than half of it is planted with palay, corn, vegetables,
and rootcrops, respectively. Fruits and cashcrops (atchuete and
coffee) are likewise grown. 2004 data cited in the Ancestral Domain
Sustainable Development and Protection Plan of Baay-Licuan says
that vegetable production cannot cope with the demands of the populace,
which is 3,812 as of the 2000 population census. Fisheries production
also takes place though at small-scale.
Presently, most farmers have minimal lands holdings
(0.25 hectares per farmer) and are tenants, thus disabling them
from attaining higher farm income. Only 230 farmers were distributed
lands totaling 471.3044 hectares from the Land Acquisition Distribution
of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)
Government health services in the municipality include four barangay
health stations and one rural health unit, attended by one municipal
health officer, 1 birth attendant, 28 barangay health workers, and
three public health nurses. The leading causes of morbidity and
mortality, respectively, are respiratory infection and pneumonia.
Nutritional status improved in 2002, with the significant decrease
in malnutrition (2nd and 3rd degree), from 9.40% in 2000 to 6.93%
in 2004. Not all households in the municipality have access to potable
water supply. Thirty six percent of the population still rely on
kerosene and pinewood for power, while the 64% of the population
have already been energized.
Poverty incidence is high (76.85%), with only 160
households of the 691 households in the municipality above poverty
line. There are 6 complete elementary and primary schools each in
Baay Licuan, but only one highschool, the Baay Licuan National Highschool.
Survival rate in both elementary and highschool is low, at 68.42%
and 68.97%, respectively, as of 2004.
The government data cited already draws a picture
of the abject state of indigenous peoples for this particular locality,
but in reality, it could be much worse.
Brgy. Poblacion meantime has a land area of 510
hectares and a population of 319 individuals (2000 Population Census).
Non-farm income (salaries, wages, honorarium and OFW remittances)
contributed to more than half the family income (74.30% ) while
farm income account for only 25.70% (palay and corn, fruits and
vegetables, livestock, poultry and fish).
While rich in natural resources, the economic facts
cited, such as the exodus of locals to work as OFWs, poor and lacking
basic social services, illustrate the marginalized state of the
indigenous communities in Baay-Licuan due to historic government
neglect. Now, with the escalation of the Arroyo regime's crisis
and implementation of policies contrary to the interests of indigenous
peoples, the indigenous communities are bearing the brunt anew in
the name of "development", manifested by the surge of
destructive projects in indigenous communities and the skyrocketing
of prices of basic commodities and services, unemployment, and rising
Development aggression and Militarization in
Baay-Licuan in Abra
Abra province is currently a mining hotspot, with one Financial
and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) and 14 Exploration Permit
Applications under process and 3 approved Mineral Sharing and Production
Agreements. The FTAA, applied for by Lindsay Resources, covers 14
municipalities in Abra and the municipalities of Balbalan and Pasil
in neighboring Kalinga province.
Canadian mining company Olympus Pacific Mining Inc.
has partnered with local companies AMIC and Jabel Corporation for
a 4,300-hectare project at Capcapo mountain, in Baay Licuan with
a Memorandum of Agreement entered into in November 23, 2006. This
development poses serious threat to the nearby and adjacent communities,
who are sustaining opposition to this project. Drilling started
in February 2007 without the communities' approval or Free, Prior,
and Informed Consent (FPIC). The 41st IB is present in Baay Licuan,
particularly the Bravo and Charlie companies. For a time in February
2007, they camped under residents' houses in Brgy. Poblacion, the
host community for Cordillera Day 2008, and deployment is increasing
as the community resistance against Olympus and large mining is
intensifying. The community literally became a military detachment
which is already a threat to the security and human rights of the
communities. CPA staff attending to ground preparations are being
harassed and are maliciously tagged as members of the New Peoples
Army even with legal identification that they are members of the
CPA Regional Secretariat, KASTAN, and BALITOK.
Dredging of the Abra River has commenced with the
operations of the Abra Rio Sand and Gravel Inc., local subsidiary
of Australian company Rio Dorado. Abra Rio Sand and Gravel has entered
into a 25-year contract with the provincial government of Abra.
The said company admitted mining interests also in Baay Licuan,
and in the municipalities of Lacub, Malibcong, Tubo, Tineg, Bucay,
Bucloc, and Tayum. The company said that the Abra River is a potential
resource for gold and magnetite, the latter being used in steel
production . Dredging can disrupt river flow patterns and subsequently,
the habitat of riverine flora and fauna, such as fish breeding grounds.
River spoil or the matter dredged from the river may cause wind
blown pollution into the wider environment due to pollutants it
could contain. While dredging is usually carried out to reduce flooding
of adjoining land, it is only a temporary solution. Upstream, the
Abra River is already largely polluted due to mine waste drained
into it from the operations of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company
in Mankayan, Benguet. Findings by the Save the Abra River Movement
(STARM) state that high levels of toxic substances are present in
the river, affecting local agriculture and the health and well-being
of communities along the river. The mighty Abra River has long since
sustained communities along it.
Clearly, Baay Licuan is fast becoming a resource
for development aggression with the tide of destructive projects
pouring in. As in other Cordillera provinces, such projects were
forced into the indigenous communities by deception and misinformation,
intimidation and harassment of arising opposition, and consequently,
use of military and even paramilitary forces to quell any action
against these so-called "development" projects.
But the indigenous peoples of Abra have a history
of successful opposition to development aggression and plunder.
Also at the time of the anti-Chico dams struggle of the Bontoc and
Kalinga peoples, the Tinggians, the indigenous tribal peoples of
Abra, also opposed the construction and operations of Cellophil
Resources Corporation (CRC) which was strongly backed by the Marcos
Dictatorship. Crony connections easily allowed the Timber and Pulpwood
License Agreement (TPLA) of the CRC, covering 99, 565 hectares of
mostly Benguet pine. A sister company of the CRC, the Cellulose
Processing Corporation (CPC) was granted a separate TPLA covering
99, 230 hectares, covering Abra, Kalinga, Apayao, Mt. Province,
Ilocos Sur and Norte.
The CRC and the Marcos government subsequently employed
deception, harassment and brute military force to force the Tinggians
to accept the CRC. The governor and mayors of concerned municipalities,
like Tineg, were relieved and were replaced with Marcos cronies.
But the Tinggians put up fierce and armed resistance as legitimate
struggle for survival and defense of their ancestral territory and
self determination. Inter-provincial peacepacts were forged for
the resistance, as indigenous elders played a significant role in
this historic struggle.
Hosting the 24th Cordillera Day in Baay Licuan is
recalling the CRC struggle-learning from the lessons drawn from
this experience of the Tinggians for the defense of the ancestral
domain and resources, as it lives out the history of successful
resistance of the Cordillera indigenous peoples against imperialist
plunder, state terrorism and aggression. The host communities have
an arsenal of experience from the anti-CRC resistance to share to
all the delegates at a time that the Cordillera is under threat
of massive mining plunder. At the same time, Cordillera Day 2008
will be a solidarity event that will support the host communities'
struggle against Olympus and large mining and militarization. Hosting
the 24th Cordillera Day was timely, given their situation and issues
the communities are confronted with. #
March 20, 2008
Cordillera Peoples Alliance