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December 10, 2007

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IPs Defiant Amidst State Terrorism and National Oppression

As we commemorate International Human Rights Day this December 10, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) upholds its defiance versus national oppression, growing state terrorism, plunder and outright violation to the collective rights of Cordillera indigenous peoples.

The threats of displacement among indigenous peoples continue with the implementation of destructive projects in indigenous territories. Current mining operations and various pending applications (125 pending applications as of 2007) total 66% or 1.2 million hectares of the region's total land area of 1.8 million hectares. The applications range from Mineral Sharing Production Agreements, Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements, and Industrial Sand and Gravel Agreements. Years of capitalist mining by Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, (LCMCo) and Benguet Corporation have not only dislocated the livelihood source of indigenous peoples in the host communities, but have blatantly violated their individual and collective rights. In Abra, Kalinga and Apayao large mining corporations are aggressively entering; they disregarded the indigenous communities' right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). In Apayao and Kalinga, the National Commission on Indigenous People's (NCIP) manipulated the FPIC process to make it appear that they democratically processed the communities' consent.

In Tulgao, Tinglayan, Kalinga indigenous communities are sustaining their rejection to the geothermal project of Guidance Management Corporation-Aragorn Power and Energy Corporation (GMC-APEC), which tried to enter the said community as early as March this year. We are also bracing ourselves for the probable US$1 million hydro-project in Kiangan, Ifugao.

Equally destructive is the continuing government program of agricultural liberalization. The importation of vegetables has adversely affected the vegetable industry particularly in Benguet. The Arroyo regime's Northern Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle (NLAQ) targets the Cordillera region as one of the "super regions" up for developing and tasked primarily to reduce agricultural products that could supply the needs of other population in Luzon and for export to North Asia. This project definitely lowers the prices of agricultural products for the Filipino consumers. GMA has also asked local executives in the NLAQ to develop the secondary potentials of the region, namely, tourism, mineral resources and energy development. These plans will ultimately worsen the national oppression of indigenous peoples.

Militarization is widely used to facilitate the entry of destructive projects. Government also implements this for counter-insurgency purposes against not only the underground revolutionary movement but also including the legal Cordillera mass movement. Military deployment is concentrated in the northwestern area of Northern Luzon covering the tri-boundaries of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur where the mining operations of Lepanto.

Meanwhile, while tourism activities bring in revenue to local government units, the social cost of decadence of alcoholism, drugs and prostitution now victimize our indigenous women and youth.

In 2007, the Arroyo regime attempted to silence us. We were harassed, threatened and even killed in cold blood. Yet we have faced the rigors of 2007 with the will to continue the struggle for our human rights. In the face of relentless violation to our right to self-determination, we remain defiant and we shall prevail, as we brace ourselves for more challenges and work towards greater recognition of our human rights in 2008.

We continue to hold the Arroyo regime accountable to the violations of our individual and collective human rights.

While the Human Security Act of 2007 and the Oplan Bantay Laya remain serious obstacles in the pursuit of our rights to land, life and resources, we will not be held back. We continue to hold the corrupt and illegitimate Arroyo regime responsible for the killings and injustices we have suffered. We renew our call for its ouster and for the establishment of a truly democratic, independent and self-determining Philippine society. #


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