Cordillera indigenous peoples stand firm against renewed development aggression

Aldwin Quitasol

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Indigenous peoples of the Cordillera Region of the Northern Philippines called the Igorots renewed their resolve to stand up against development aggression that is being pushed under the rule of President Rodrigo Duterte as they started before during the reign of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

In their celebration of the 34th Cordillera Day held from April 22-24, the Igorots led by the widest alliance of indigenous peoples (IPs) in the Cordillera Region resound their call to further their struggle for the defense of their ancestral domain and for Self-Determination through making of resolutions and formation of the Cordillera Movement against Tyranny (CMAT).

According to Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) Chairman Windel Bolinget, the tyrannical environment during the martial law years of Marcos in the 70s ‘til the middle 80s is again being brought back by Duterte whom he said is like hell bent in following the footstep of the late dictator toppled by popular Filipino people’s power on February 25, 1986.

The annual staging of the Cordillera Day is also the commemoration of the death of Cordillera Pangat (well respected tribal chieftain) Macliing Dulag who was murdered by government soldiers on April 24, 1980.  Dulag and other tribal leaders and elders during that time were at the forefront together with the tribes Kalinga and Bontok opposing the World Bank-funded Chico River Basin Hydro-Electric Dam Project of Marcos.

His assassination led to the further strengthening of the Kalinga and Bontok Tribes and other IPs of the Cordillera to advance their struggle to protect their land from the intrusion of development aggressors like the foreign-owned giant mining corporations and energy corporations backed by the bureaucrats. Cordillera Day was embraced by the Cordillera people symbolizing their unity and solidarity with the other IPs of the Cordillera Region.

This annual celebration was also being attended by IPs as well as non-IPs from the other parts of the country and even from the international community as part of the growing national as well as international solidarity in the fight for people’s rights.

The Cordillera IPs see hydropower electric dams and so-called irrigation projects as threat to the continuous flow of the main rivers of the region like the Chico River, Apayao River and others. Recently, the Duterte government signed an agreement with the Chinese government on the construction of Chico River Pump Irrigation Project that brought shock and disappointment to the Cordillera IPs especially the Bontoks and Kalingas.  The Chico Irrigation Project to the eyes of the CPA is just a prelude to a bigger project which will soon be a Hydroelectric Power Dam.

And together with development projects being insisted within the ancestral lands of the Igorots is the deployment of government soldiers especially to the communities opposing the projects. On the night March 2, 2018, Ricardo Mayumi, and environmentalist and an IP leader who led his people in the opposition against the construction of the Quadriver Mini Hydro Dam of the Sta Clara Power Corporation that threatens to submerge their beloved Tinoc town in Ifugao was gunned down. Many Cordillera leaders and members of environmental and rights groups wre assassinated because of their staunch campaign in protecting the Igorot lands from destruction brought by development aggression.

The Igorots in the Cordillera celebration affirmed their resolve to fight tyranny through their unity to uphold that legitimate and dissent activism is an obligation of the people under what they said a rising tyrant in the face of Duterte and to mobilize (Mabtad  or a call for each community people to join the mobilization for a common objective for the good of all) and defend their heritage and identity.

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