• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines

40th Peoples' Cordillera Day Central Statement

April 20, 2024

The occasion of the 40th Peoples’ Cordillera Day is marked by extraordinary times. 109 energy and 104 mining projects carpet the entire region, coupled with intense militarization, judicial harassment, and endless redtagging and terrorist tagging. The police, military, and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) are hellbent in opposing the conduct of this celebration. We are aware of the pressure they are putting on local government officials, on our local peoples’ organizations and worse, on our communities across the region through community-wide threats, harassment, and intimidation. However, with courage, perseverance, and determination, we stand strong and united in celebrating four decades of the Peoples’ Cordillera Day!

It is true that that these series of fascist attacks have caused setbacks. At the same time, it is a huge victory that amid all of these, we remain firm in struggle. In 2023, after the trumped-up charge of rebellion filed against 5 leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), the state attempted a final blow by freezing CPA’s bank accounts and designating Windel Bolinget, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Jennifer Awingan, and Steve Tauli as terrorists or enemies of the State. This only proves how the State views our mission to uphold our right to ancestral domain and self-determination as that of “terrorists” or State enemies. Yet, while doing so, they continue to militarize and bomb our communities, particularly in Kalinga and Abra. Enabled by no other than President Marcos Jr. himself, the 5th and 7th Infantry Division of the the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) along with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and elements of the NTF-ELCAC are the primary culprits behind the harrowing tragedies in the Cordillera region.

Historically, the Peoples’ Cordillera Day was sparked by a tragedy itself- the state-sponsored assassination of Kalinga chieftain Macli-ing Dulag who valiantly stood as a leader of the Anti-Chico Dams struggle. Rather than cowering in fear, the people even more found a reason to unite and stand up against the then-Marcos Sr. dictatorship. The Macli-ing Memorials were conducted on the anniversary of his brutal killing, until it finally became the Peoples’ Cordillera Day on April 24, 1985. In this spirit, we honor the Cordillera heroes and martyrs from then on, making the Peoples’ Cordillera Day not only a celebration but a commemoration and salutation of Cordillera mass movement trailblazers.

Now, we are facing a new wave of struggles for the defense of land, life, and honor. Kalinga hosts an onslaught of hydros, geothermal, and wind energy project applications, including large-scale mining projects by Makilala Mining Corporation. A 200MW wind farm project of JBD Water Power, Inc. (JWPI) is a new threat to the province, to include areas of Abra. We recall that JWPI, a company associated with an Australian personality named James Bennett Davies (JBD) is also behind the dams along the Saltan and Mabaca rivers in Kalinga. The Kalinga Geothermal Project of Aragorn Power Inc. and its subsidiaries are seeking to expand its operations through the Southwest Kalinga Geothermal Project and the Mainit-Sadanga Geothermal Project, the latter affecting some parts of Mt. Province. It is no wonder then that intense military operations are being conducted in Kalinga considering the number of development aggression projects that will destroy the province.

In Apayao, meanwhile, its great river continues to be threatened by San Miguel and Pan Pacific’s cascade of 8 large dams, and the same goes for the Alimit river in Ifugao with SN-Aboitiz’s Alimit hydropower complex. These projects could not proceed due to the strong opposition from the affected communities. In Benguet, the people of Mankayan and Itogon have had enough of decades of exploitative and destructive large-scale mining operations. Enrique Razon’s Apex-Itogon Suyoc Resources, Inc. and the Romualdez family’s Benguet Corporation, Inc. are facing public backlash and community opposition for their insistence on expanding and continuing their operations.

Adding to all these burdens is the brutal impact of the climate crisis and government neglect to peasant livelihood across the region, embodied at present by the El Niño, expected to worsen by the impending La Niña.

Indeed, with such a backdrop, there is no other way to go but to struggle, and it is in struggle that we find our honor as peoples of the Cordillera. These have been passed down since the time of colonization when our ancestors fought for our lands and ways of life, and we recognize this now as our fight for ancestral lands and self-determination, a fight that ultimately defines our honor.

So much has been taken away from the Cordillera peoples, spanning from decades to decades of struggles. Let us remember and live out the legacies of our heroes and martyrs, let us draw lessons from our history, let us rise from our setbacks, and most importantly, let us muster the courage to resist for our land, life, and honor. SUMKAD, CORDILLERA! ###