|Cordillera Peoples Alliance|
Public Information Commission
on the 39th Peoples Cordillera Day
We mark the 39th Peoples’ Cordillera Day with a united battle cry- SUMKAD for land, life, and honor!
Sumkad, meaning to rise, resist, defend, is a word with an all-too-familiar meaning in our history of struggle as Cordillera Peoples. In the 70s and 80s, the Marcos Dictatorship threatened our lands with huge development projects. A peoples’ movement ensued, and the birth of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in 1984 signaled an organized expression of a pan-Cordillera movement for ancestral lands and self-determination. On April 24, 1985, following the Macli-ing Memorials from 1981-1984, the first Cordillera Day led by the CPA was held in Sadanga, Mt. Province.
Decades later, Cordillera Day is again celebrated under another Marcos. Regimes following the dictatorship repeatedly subjected the Cordillera region to threats of resource plunder through large energy and mining applications and used state security forces to quash the peoples’ resistance. Such is a legacy of Marcos Sr., now coming full circle under a government led by his son.
Today, the Cordillera region is riddled with 96 energy projects and more than 100 large-scale mining applications. Kalinga is facing JBD Water Power Inc.’s Saltan Dams, which will affect communities in Balbalan and Pinukpuk, aside from the impending Upper Tabuk Hydropower Project (UTHP) of Daniel Peckley Jr. and the 52 MW Chico River Hydropower Dam of Karayan Hydropower Corporation. Pan Pacific’s Gened Dams are still resolutely opposed by the people of Apayao, and the same goes for the people of Ifugao on the Aboitiz’s Alimit Hydropower Complex. Benguet, Mt. Province, and Abra are eyed for large-scale mining operations, particularly of Cordillera Exploration Inc. (CEXCI), a subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corporation and Sumitomo Mining. These projects will disturb Cordillera’s ecosystems and ultimately disrupt the livelihood of communities that depend on the environment.
There are big business tycoons who will benefit greatly from the proposed projects in the Cordillera region, most of them friends of the Marcoses: the Sy Siblings through AllFirst Equity Holdings, which is now the sole owner of the stalled yet listed by the Department of Energy Kalinga Geothermal Project; Enrique Razon through Apex Mining which now owns the Itogon-Suyoc Resources and its mines in Benguet; the Aboitiz’s Family through Aboitiz Power, which owns the Ambuklao, Binga, and Magat Dams including the Hedcor Hydros, and the Alimit Hydropower Complex project, now in partnership with Norway-based Scatec energy company; Ramon Ang through San Miguel Power Corporation which controls Pan Pacific; and the Marcoses themselves, through their dummies, cronies, and foreign partners involved in mining ventures. Marcos Jr. represents the interest of these tycoons in his trips abroad since many of the reported achievements involved securing foreign investments that would benefit many of their businesses. Unsurprisingly, the tycoons, the same ones who backed him during the elections, were the ones to laud him for attending to his international and diplomatic engagements.
True to following the footsteps of their disgraced patriarch, the Marcoses are also attempting to hold on to their power. Marcos Jr.’s allies in Congress are pushing for a Charter Change (ChaCha) despite his claims that it is not a priority. Key changes in the proposed ChaCha are extensions from one 6-year to two 5-year term limits and 100% foreign ownership of projects seeking to “develop” our natural resources. Both have grave implications for the Cordillera peoples considering that these natural resources are found mostly in ancestral lands. In connection with this, our lawmakers are pushing another Cordillera regional autonomy bill. There is no reason to push it through with such proposed constitutional changes and the need for more substance of the autonomy bill on our right to self-determination and ancestral lands. We can only achieve genuine regional autonomy if resource plunder is stopped and the fundamental problems of the Filipino people are addressed.
Apart from continuing the legacies of Marcos Sr., the Marcos Jr. regime is also an extension of the bloody Duterte tyranny. The reported human rights violations under the new administration are as follows: more than 80 incidents of threats, harassment, and intimidation (THI), 6 incidents of police-military visitations, 17 incidents of red-tagging forums in schools and barangays, and a case of bombings in Gawa-an, Balbalan, Kalinga. Judicial harassment and criminalization of dissent are rampant with the abduction and torture of Steve Tauli, the illegal arrest of Jen Awingan, the trumped-up charge against the Northern Luzon 7, the faked/forced surrenderees, and the continuing red-tagging and terrorist tagging. The guilty pronouncement of Bestang Dekdeken on her cyber-libel case and the denial of CPA’s petition for the Writ of Amparo despite these attacks also expose the culture of impunity and the limits of our justice system amid our efforts to engage in legal battles.
However, our history tells us that this is not the first time we have experienced such dire situations. The Marcos dictatorship saw the monumental victory of the Cordillera peoples, who stopped the Chico Dams and the large-scale logging operations of the Cellophil Resources Corporation. At that time of extreme turmoil, the people formed the CPA, and CPA went on to be at the forefront of many more struggles in defense of ancestral lands and self-determination all over the Cordillera. Indeed, a situation of oppression will breed resistance. The oppressors know this too, and they are trying to distort our history to pacify us. It has come to the point that even the word “Igorot” is linked to “terrorism,” as claimed by the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples Ilocos and Cordillera commissioner Gaspar Cayat who, by saying so, gained the ire of the general public.
The 39th Peoples Cordillera Day, being the 1st under another Marcos administration is thus an occasion of renewed commitment and celebration of our gains and victories in the past. Our present predicament is not far from what we have already seen, experienced, and triumphed over. Now more than ever, we are called to rise, resist, and defend- to Sumkad for our land, life, and honor!