Since its formation in 1984, CPA waged numerous
campaigns to educate, organize, and mobilize the Cordillera peoples.
It was able to conduct widespread public information and educational
activities to popularize indigenous peoples’ rights in general,
and specifically the Cordillera peoples' aspiration for self-determination
in the form of genuine regional autonomy. It also spearheaded series
of protest actions against the fascist Marcos dictatorship.
Pushing for genuine regional
Upon the ascendance in 1986 of the initially popular
government of Corazon Aquino, CPA pursued
its call for the creation of a Cordillera region as one geopolitical
entity, in recognition to its character as the homeland of the Cordillera
indigenous peoples and towards the formation of a Cordillera autonomous
CPA successfully lobbied for the inclusion of the
Cordillera peoples’ right to regional autonomy in the Philippine
Constitution of 1987. However, the Organic Act approved by the elite-dominated
Congress – the enabling law that would have created the Cordillera
autonomous region – did not embody the substance of self-governance
and indigenous peoples’ control over their resources. Thus,
CPA called for its rejection which was supported by the people during
the referendum held on this law.
It became clear that the struggle for genuine regional
autonomy could not be achieved, unless there is truly a democratic
and sovereign national government that will recognize the collective
rights of indigenous peoples for self-determination and governance.
When the Aquino regime
declared “all-out war” against insurgents, and joined
forces with the self-styled mercenary group, the Cordillera Peoples
Liberation Army (CPLA), their deadly combination resulted in more
CPA leaders and members being killed and harassed. This included
the killings by the CPLA of CPA Vice Chairperson Daniel Ngaya-an
and Romy Gardo, CPA organizer in Abra province.
In the midst of a series of intense military operations
among indigenous communities, and the red-baiting and black propaganda
against CPA and other progressive organizations, several member-organizations
of CPA became inactive due to fear, harassment and intimidation.
But CPA began to recover from this situation through
its perseverance and consistent advocacy on human rights and indigenous
peoples rights at the local, national and international levels.
Campaign for the Defense
of Land, Life and Resources
When the United Nations declared 1993 as the Year
for Indigenous Peoples and later the years 1994-2003 as the Indigenous
Peoples (IP) Decade, CPA launched its decade-long campaign for the
defense of land, life and resources, coinciding with the UN-declared
This period covered the intense campaign of CPA
and its allied organizations and networks against the open-pit mining
project of Benguet Corporation, which stopped operation in 1992. CPA
also implemented a participatory research program on land related-issues
and successfully held the second Cordillera multi-sectoral
land conference in 1995.
The adverse impact of Official Development Assistance
(ODA) in the Cordillera was also highlighted in its continuing education
and public information campaign. The campaign focused on the Cordillera
Central Agricultural Project (CECAP) of the European Community and
the Highland Agricultural Development Project (HADP) of the Asian
Development Bank, which later became the Cordillera Highland Agricultural
Resource Management Project (CHARMP).
No to large-scale mines
in the Cordillera, save the Abra river
When Congress passed the Mining Act of 1995, CPA
immediately held a series of protest actions and community mobilizations
to demand that this oppressive law be scrapped. This law is for
the full liberalization of the Philippine mining industry, allowing
100% ownership of foreign mining companies, among other numerous
incentives, benefits and privileges given to mining companies.
With numerous mining applications by foreign and
local mining firms covering almost half of the Cordillera territory
at one time, CPA pursued a widespread and sustained campaign against
large-scale mining in the region, together with other groups and
This sustained education, lobby and advocacy campaign
gained support from a number of local government officials, who
endorsed resolutions disallowing large-scale mining operation in
their jurisdiction. Likewise, the continued vigilance of indigenous
communities is making it difficult for mining firms to open up new
mines in the region.
In January 2004, the Supreme Court issued a decision
stating that certain 1995 Mining Act provisions, which allowed 100%
ownership, management and control of local mines by foreign firms,
were unconstitutional. CPA welcomed the SC ruling, and continues
to call for the cancellation of other mining applications, genuine
rehabilitation of mined-out areas, compensation for victims of mining-related
disasters, and a stop to expansion programs of existing mining firms.
Another focus campaign of CPA is the continued operation
and expansion of the Lepanto Consolidated
Mining Company in Mankayan Benguet. Affected communities
have been complaining of land subsidence, pollution of the Abra river from the toxic tailings dam, other environmental
and health impacts of the project. CPA spearheaded the formation
of the Save the Abra River Movement (STARM),
a broad coalition of various sectors and concerned citizens.
Divisive and deceptive
laws and policies
CPA came out with its critique of the Indigenous
Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) after it was passed in 1997. This
law, while sounding progressive in language, does not provide for
the actual recognition of ancestral land rights and indigenous peoples’
control over their resources. Inspite of the passage of this law on indigenous peoples rights, indigenous communities in the Cordillera
and the rest of the country remains confronted with serious problems
on the violation of their collective rights over their land and
resources and human rights violations by development aggression
and militarization being pursued by the government. CPA continues
to fight assert the collective rights of indigenous peoples over
their land and resources, for self-determination and genuine people’s
CPA also came out with its critique on the National
Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) and other related forestry
and land laws and policies, adversely affecting indigenous peoples.
No to the
San Roque dam and other megadams
in the Cordillera
From 1998 onwards, CPA launched its sustained campaign
against the San Roque Multi-purpose Dam, with its member-organizations of
the affected communities. This campaign generated a very broad support
at the regional, national and international levels. It has engaged
in direct lobby work with the dam-funder,
the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) as well as with
national legislative bodies. The dam project is currently in operation,
and CPA continues to oppose this destructive project and other planned
mega-dams in the region.
Through the years, CPA has exposed countless cases
of human rights violations committed in the region, and fought for
justice and compensation to victims of militarization.
Massive military deployment, sustained military
operations, and aggressive recruitment of paramilitary forces among
the village folk, have resulted in numerous human rights violations,
more tribal conflicts, community disharmony, and general instability
in the Cordillera countrysides.
CPA has thus been calling for the pullout of military
forces, the dismantling of paramilitary units, and justice to all
victims of human rights violations.
CPA has been active in tackling major national issues
in its public information, education and direct-action activities.
These include its opposition to national policies that implement
structural adjustment programs imposed by the World Bank and Asian
Development Bank, and WTO-imposed policies on privatization, liberalization
and de-regulation of basic industries, services and agriculture.
Within this framework, CPA, mainly through its Metro
Baguio Chapter, the Tongtongan ti Umili (TTU), has been spearheading protest actions against
the privatization of power, against the deregulation of the oil
industry causing a long series of oil price hikes, and against the
worsening economic crisis and political repression.
CPA was also in the forefront of the popular campaign
and mobilizations demanding the ouster of then President Joseph
Estrada, who was being impeached for plunder and other charges.
CPA has also been also active in the protest campaign
against the US wars of aggression and continuing occupation of Iraq
and Afghanistan, in the campaign against the US global counter-terror
crusade that is being supported and promoted by the current Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo regime. It actively participates
in direct actions calling for the pullout of US military forces
in the Philippines,
and asserts the Filipino people’s rights to national sovereignty
and territorial integrity.
networking and solidarity
Since its formation, CPA has committed itself to
establishing friendly and principled relations with overseas indigenous
peoples’ organizations, advocate groups, and progressive individuals
In 1987, CPA organized and hosted the first Asian
Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Conference, which led to the establishment
of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP). This organization remains
as a major Asian IP formation, and CPA is presently in its executive
committee as represented by its Chairperson.
CPA also organized and hosted the First Asian Indigenous
Women’s Conference in January 1990, which led to the formation
of the Asia Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN).
CPA is also a founding member of the International
Alliance of Indigenous/Tribal Peoples of the Tropical
known as International Alliance of IPs),
which was formally established in 1993.
Likewise, CPA maintains strong solidarity relations
with numerous IP advocate groups based in countries of the global
In line with its international lobby and advocacy
work, CPA regularly participates in the annual meeting of the United
Nations Working Group on Indigenous Issues, and the sessions of
the United Nations Working Group on the draft Declaration of Indigenous
Peoples’ Rights. Likewise, it actively participating in the
annual sessions of the United Nations Permanent Forum on indigenous
issues since the forum was established in 2001.
CPA sponsored an Asian Human Rights Training on
International Human Rights Instruments in October 2002, in partnership
with the Saami Council based in Norway.
In line with its advocacy against large dams, CPA
hosted the Second Meeting of the Rivers Watch, East and Southeast
Asia (RWESA) in February 2002, and is currently the facilitator
of this network opposed to large dams and for the protection of
rivers and people’s livelihood.
On the basis of its advocacy and campaigns against
large dams and commercial mining, CPA maintains a very broad linkages
and partnerships at the international level.
Since 2002, CPA has also been participating in the
the World Social Forum as the biggest
gathering of anti-globalization civil society organizations and
institutions, organizing its own events with other IP organizations.
It also participated in the NGO parallel events during the 2003
Cancun Meeting of the World Trade Organization.
CPA seeks to unite with all anti-imperialist groups
and organizations. It is a member of the International League of
Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS), an anti-imperialist formation at
the international level.
Cordillera Day: an
annual solidarity gathering
Dulag, a tribal elder who helped lead the indigenous peoples’
struggle versus the Chico
dam project, was killed in April
24, 1980 by a unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
In the next years, CPA and indigenous communities held Macliing
Memorial Days annually to commemorate his martyrdom. Since 1985,
the Macliing Memorial was transformed into Cordillera Day, as
a day of commemoration of all Cordillera martyrs and heroes, and
also as a solidarity gathering of Cordillera indigenous communities,
friends and advocates for the continuing struggle for self-determination,
indigenous peoples’ rights, human rights, and social justice.
This annual gathering, held every April 24-25, has
been well attended by an average of from 3,000 to 4,000 participants
each year. The celebration is usually hosted by an indigenous village
community in one of the region’s many hinterland areas, emphasizing
its character as a grassroots-based solidarity affair. At the same
time, Cordillera Day enjoys increasing recognition overseas, with
a growing number of international participants from both the global
North and South.
Through the years, CPA has been continuing its organizing
work in numerous communities in the various Cordillera provinces,
giving education and training seminars and facilitating needed and
appropriate community projects and other services for grassroots
development and welfare. In its organizing work, it carries the
positive values of cooperation and mutual assistance within and
among villages in addressing their concerns and welfare.
Likewise, CPA has been conducting an educational
campaign against the scourge of tribal wars, and has been active
in tribal conflict resolution and in promoting inter-tribal unity.
With CPA’s painstaking organizing and education
work among indigenous communities and sectors, its membership and
influence base has been steadily growing. Aside from its community-based
multi-sectoral organizations, it now includes regional sectoral alliances and federations of peasant women, youth
Just like other big organizations, however, CPA
faces new challenges on how to further consolidate its growing membership
and its other political gains, given the changing political, economic
and socio-cultural realities at the regional, national and international
CPA on its 20th anniversary
This year, 2004, CPA is celebrating its 20th anniversary
without much fanfare, but with stronger resolve and commitment to
further advance the Cordillera indigenous peoples’ movement
against national oppression and imperialist globalization and for
Throughout its 20 years of hard work and service
to its peoples, CPA has made significant advances in upholding,
and some level of recognition of, indigenous peoples’ rights
and interests. CPA has also gained valuable lessons and met major
challenges in the realm of politics, which has made it an even stronger
independent political force in the Cordillera.
CPA will strive to pursue further its goals and
mission to end national oppression, empower the Cordillera peoples,
and achieve their aspirations for the recognition of their rights,
towards genuine peace, equality, social justice and democracy for