WORLD IP DAY | Native Cordillerans push right to self-determination

August 8, 2017 - 8:35 PM
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Igorots Mountain Province
A group of Cordillera Igorot community members prepare for an indigenous ceremony in Mountain Province.

BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) will lead the tribal folk of the Cordillera Region in marking World Indigenous People’s Day on August 9, 2017 – with a vow to further assert their right to self-determination.

“Our common plight as indigenous peoples experiencing national oppression, discrimination, development aggression and human rights violations strengthens our resolve to unite with indigenous peoples and other oppressed sectors in the Philippines, as well as our brothers and sisters in other nations,” stated CPA Chairperson Windel Bolinget.

He said the intensifying plunder and exploitation of ancestral lands in the form of destructive projects and militarization “is an outright assault to our right to self-determination. Poverty, hunger and lack of social services remain, especially in interior communities where most indigenous peoples’ territories are situated.”

CPA stated that, in the Cordillera, “we deplore the government’s callous connivance with big mining interests amidst President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcements to protect the environment in his last state of the nation address.”

“The watershed cradle of the north remains under threat of massive environmental devastation with the application for new mining explorations covering 66% of the region’s total land area,” the group said.

Bolinget said energy projects that complement the needs of mining corporations also threaten to destroy the Cordilleras. “Various big business interests endanger the rich land and waterways of the tribal communities in the region. To date, there are 81 approved hydroelectric power plants with 16 pending approval.”

According to CPA, big mining and energy corporations continue to violate indigenous peoples rights through the circumvention of existing laws, as well as government incompetence and corruption. “Even the mechanism of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is being used to manipulate the entry of mining, energy and other destructive projects into ancestral territories. With or without the FPIC provision in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, indigenous communities have an inherent right to oppose and never allow the entry of these projects that will cause severe devastation over our lands.”

Bolinget pointed out that “the plunder and exploitation of ancestral lands is accompanied by intense military operations, and this has been the case in the Cordillera ever since. Military operations intensified nationwide since Duterte’s declaration of all-out war against the revolutionary forces. He said that the Cordillera region was among the targets of the AFP upon Duterte’s directive to ‘flatten the hills’.”

“In Namal, Ifugao, communities were subjected to forced evacuation because of continued military operations. Malibcong, Abra, experienced indiscriminate air strikes using phosphorous bombs. In Kalinga province, the indigenous communities experienced divestment and destruction of properties, and the physical assault of civilians and barangay officials.

CPA stated there are similarities in the plight of the Cordillera IPs with that of fellow indigenous peoples in the country. “Our Lumad brothers and sisters have been consistently bombarded by human rights abuses by the military and paramilitary forces in Mindanao. Thousands are internally displaced due to the military operations that intensified with the declaration of martial law there. Lumad schools offering free education have been forced to close. Indigenous peasant leaders are being killed in Mindanao, as well as in the Visayas and Southern Luzon. These areas are under threat of unbridled plunder with the entry of similar mining and energy projects. These areas of indigenous peoples are also consistently and defiantly united in opposing these projects,” CPA added.

“We therefore mark August 9 as a day of struggle, while celebrating gains in indigenous peoples worldwide in the assertion of our right to self-determination,” stressed Bolinget.