• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines

Strengthen People’s Solidarity.
Intensify the Struggle for Land, Life, and Rights!

April 24, 2009

Naimbag nga bigat!

This April, we celebrate our achievements and gains accumulated by the peoples’ movement through decades of arduous struggle , as we gather in five different yet simultaneous celebrations in the Cordillera region as well as overseas to mark the 25th Cordillera Day. On this occasion, we reaffirm and raise our resolve to pursue the struggle for land, life and rights as we render the highest tribute to our Cordillera martyrs and heroes who inspire us by their selfless sacrifice for the people. We celebrate our achievements and raise our struggle to a higher level in the face of the unprecedented crisis of the world capitalist system and the brutal attacks and terrorism of the US-backed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime against our people.

More than just a celebration, Cordillera Day is a political statement on present realities we face in the region, nation and the world. The solidarity forged during Cordillera Day serves to enhance the particularity of the Cordillera peoples’ struggle and to inspire others. At the same time, it strengthens the unity of the Cordillera peoples with other indigenous peoples and sectors across the region, and at the national and international levels.

Realities under the US-Backed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Regime

Instead of being cowed, we choose to fight and resist the forces that come to oppress and exploit us right in own Cordillera homeland. The imperialist plunder of our ancestral lands and resources is facilitated by state laws and policies that treat the Cordillera as a resource-base for plunder and extraction of its rich natural resources. Projects like large mining and agricultural liberalization lead to environmental degradation, poverty, food insecurity and unemployment. The people’s marginalization is aggravated by government neglect and bureaucratic corruption. In the process, our indigenous socio-political institutions and indigenous culture are subverted and commercialized. We experience state fascism through militarization and political repression resulting in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, bombings and widespread human rights violations. We suffer these problems at the hands of the imperialists and ruling elite who make superprofits at the expense of the people and the country.

The US-Arroyo regime is responsible for the sufferings of our people, the threats and attacks to our life, land and rights. State machineries including the bureaucracy, military, legislative and judicial structures connive to sell-out the people’s interests in favor of foreign investors and the ruling elite. Democracy and progress don’t exist in the country. National oppression of indigenous peoples and national minorities is unprecedented under the current regime.

The current crisis of the domestic ruling system has further deepened and worsened with the worst crisis of the world capitalist system. The past decades of neoliberal globalization policies have tightened imperialist control over the Philippine economy, which remains backward, agrarian, and pre-industrial ,The Arroyo regime has constantly lied to the people by claiming that the Philippine economy, export-oriented and import-dependent, is immune from the great global economic crisis. Being a neo-colony, the country is seriously affected by the global crisis that hit the US first.

Even with the global tumult and crisis brought about by imperialist globalization, the corruption-ridden Arroyo regime is hell-bent on pushing for more globalization under its Charter Change proposition, including her wish to stay in power beyond 2010. The Arroyo regime as a reliable puppet of US imperialism also continues to open up Philippine territory for US military intervention and joint military exercises through the Visiting Forces Agreement and other unequal treaties, in a complete surrender of our sovereignty and patrimony.

Joblessness increased this year, adding to the 4.1 million unemployed and 6.8 million underemployed as of 2007. Overseas Filipino workers are among the hardest hit by job losses—retrenchment, mass layoffs, in industries that include corporate mining. Neo-liberal globalization has further pushed our people into misery - the peasants into landlessness, the workers into further exploitation, and the urban poor and middle class into economic hardship.

In the region, imperialist globalization has taken its toll with the plunder and exploitation of indigenous territories for extractive industries, particularly corporate mining. The historical plunder by mining giants Lepanto Mining, Benguet Corporation and Philex Corporation, and the aggressive entry of transnational mining corporations in the region, like Anglo American (Apayao, Abra, Kalinga), Anvil (Benguet), Olympus (Abra), Phelps Dodge (Kalinga), Zi Jin (Benguet), Royalco (Benguet), to name a few, have violated indigenous peoples’ right to ancestral lands and the very right to life. In fact, the assertion of the right to self determination has been criminalized and deemed an act of terrorism by the State.

The Cordillera remains militarized, being a resource base for profit by both local and foreign interests. This is aggravated by the national policy Oplan Bantay Laya, an anti-insurgency operation plan of the military that targets innocent civilians and activists. In fact, the year 2008 was marked with the persistence of the twin tactics of State terrorism and plunder. Extrajudicial killings, forced “surrenders”, bombings and shelling are a few of the ruthless acts of military terror that swept Cordillera indigenous communities previously. Militarization of indigenous communities, especially where there is strong opposition to destructive mining, has resulted to various forms and degrees of human rights violations.

From Pananuman in Tubo, Abra, the murderous 50th IB has moved to Bulalacao, Mankayan, Benguet, sowing fear and terror among community members and the local leaders. The areas of heavy military deployment are the very sites of the State’s economic interests, like corporate mining.

Under the Arroyo regime, the first case of enforced disappearance took place in the Cordillera. CPA founding member James Moy Balao was abducted by State forces and has been missing since September 17, 2008 in spite of the widespread clamor and pressure from local communities and even the international community that he be surfaced. All efforts are being done to demand that State forces surface James Balao alive while countering vile attempts of the military to discredit the CPA.

People’s Vulnerability to Climate Change

The current global economic order and “free-market globalization” driven by the imperialists and their transnational corporations is the root cause of over-exploitation and depletion of resources, environmental destruction and excessive release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere resulting in climate change and the present environmental crisis of catastrophic proportions. Climate change is not merely an environmental issue but a question of social justice, national sovereignty and people’s control over their resources, sustainable economic growth and human development. The needs of the people and the environment must be placed above global capital and private profit accumulation.

Indigenous peoples, who are among the most vulnerable to the climate crisis, have in fact contributed the least to climate change with their sustainable and natural resource management of land and environment. Floods, long droughts, extreme cold and dry spells, including sharp drops in water sources affect the traditional livelihood sources of indigenous peoples, which are largely dependent and intertwined to the land. Thus, indigenous peoples’ existence and survival is put at tremendous risk.

The imperialists and ruling elite must bear the greater responsibility for the climate crisis. Drastic action is required to reverse or seriously address the crisis, which is not only about adaptation and mitigation. Also, any solution to address the climate crisis must not be another profit-making scheme of foreign and local capitalists. The issue of climate change must be approached by changing the whole economic framework of imperialism into a system that is socially just, democratic and ecologically sustainable, which respects the self-determined development of indigenous peoples and their right to self determination.

Advancing the Peoples’ Movement

The 25th Cordillera Day demonstrates the advancement of the Cordillera mass movement, which continues to expand and gain strength, especially in the face of the worst crisis of the world capitalist system and domestic social order. As imperialism and the local ruling classes intensify the oppression and exploitation of the people, the peoples’ struggle on one hand is unstoppable in advancing.

This year’s decentralized Cordillera Day manifests the growth and accumulated strength of the Cordillera peoples’ movement from decades of painstaking struggle. The CPA organizations in all the provinces have reached their capacity such that they can organize and mobilize, simultaneously, for their local celebrations in response to their local issues. Thus, this year’s Cordillera Day demonstrates the wide reach and base of the Cordillera mass movement which indeed is worth celebrating!

Cordillera Day has been sustained and commemorated for the past 25 years. It remains cherished and continues to draw solidarity and support from the national and international community, as opposed to the bogus “Cordillera National Day” of the paramilitary Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) which recently ceased in having its own activity with the military, and government’s “Cordillera Day” in July based on the Aquino issuance of EO 220, which remains a mere declaration of a government holiday. As both are a mockery of the Cordillera peoples struggle, the true Cordillera Day prevails and continues to be revered by the Cordillera peoples.

Fearlessly Face the Challenges Ahead

Notwithstanding these significant achievements, much more needs to be done with the challenges that lie ahead. Our central theme “Strengthen people’s solidarity. Intensify the struggle for land, life and rights” sharply articulates the urgent action and challenge that the Cordillera peoples must collectively do to survive and live as a people with dignity.

In following their examples, our heroes and martyrs did not die in vain. Cordillera Day and our continuing campaigns and struggles shall be raised to a higher ground until our aspirations become a reality. As we strengthen our solidarity with allies and friends here and abroad, we raise the unity among our communities, tribes and sectors in pursuit of genuine regional autonomy and self determination, and intensify community resistance against imperialist plunder, militarization and political repression, towards achieving genuine peace and progress. We continue to heighten our work in arousing, organizing and mobilizing our communities and sectors and further strengthen our ranks in response to the call of intensifying our struggle.

As our martyr Ama Macliing Dulag has told us: “What is the most precious thing to man? Life. If life is threatened, what ought a man do? Resist. This he must do, otherwise he is dishonored and that is worse than death.” Indeed, the struggle for the peoples’ aspirations for social justice, genuine development and peace, freedom and democracy are still far from over. So, let us fight and carry on the struggle. Let us put our forces together and intensify the struggle for land, food, and rights, self determination and national democracy. Like tributaries feeding a powerful river that cannot be stopped, our local efforts contribute to the wider national struggle for land, life, and rights. Our own struggle against imperialism in our ancestral territories is our contribution to the advancement of the anti-imperialist movement around the world.

From our historic experience and lessons drawn from our decades of life-and-death struggle, we are confident that we will prevail. And so, we dare to struggle and dare to win. Let this Cordillera Day be counted as another success in our struggle. #

Stop militarization and human rights violations in the Cordillera! Stop Enforced Disappearance and political repression in the Cordillera! Justice for all victims of state terrorism!

Resist mining plunder and development aggression! Promote pro-people and sustainable development! Scrap the Mining Act of 1995, Defend Patrimony! Moratorium on large mining operations and applications in the Cordillera!

Oppose charter change. Oust GMA.
Oppose US military intervention in the Philippines. Scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Respect the collective rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands and resources. Respect the free, prior, and informed consent of communities. Revoke and cancel mining permits and agreements without the FPIC of affected communities. Implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples!

Fight for the defense of our ancestral domain and intensify the struggle for self determination and national democracy.