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By Aldwin Quitasol
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — The indigenous peoples (IPs) of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines are again at their dismay as President Rodrigo Duterte in his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA) did not tackle the true situation of the country.
“Instead of putting an end to the culture of impunity that reigns in the country, he will continue to
disregard human rights and rule of law, and intensify the extrajudicial killings of thousands more people through the War on Drugs. In a span of two years, more than 23,000 have already been killed in the implementation of the War on Drugs,” stated the widest alliance of Cordillera Ips in the region Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).
According to CPA Secretary General Sarah Dekdeken, the president has neither acknowledged nor addressed real the situation of the IPs where they continuously suffer national oppression. She stated that Duterte has been mentioning again about environmental protection, prohibiting open pit mining as well as irresponsible mining yet his pronouncements has already been proven rhetoric over the past year. She said large scale destructive mining continues, dams and other energy projects owned by foreign corporations still encroaches ancestral lands while causing further damage to the environment.
She stressed that in areas where there are mining, dams and other energy projects and there are opposition against them, militarization is intensified resulting in various human rights violations. She also said that Duterte did not say anything to stop the attacks against the church and God, the women and the media. Earlier, the president went to word war against the Catholic Church even saying that the God of the Catholics is stupid. At least three Catholic priests were assassinated under his watch and the media killings also continue.
Dekdeken said that the situation of the Cordillera people will worsen as there is no meaningful change in the lives of the Cordillera people in a span of two years. In his campaign days prior to being the highest ruler of the country, Duterte promised the Filipinos that change will come. The CPA stated that the people of the Cordillera are now put in an even dire situation, with the worsening economic crisis, further intensification of militarization and political persecution, and increasing efforts to plunder the Cordillera land and natural resources.
The IPs alliance also slammed the president because of the pro-oligarch and anti-poor policies of his administration. Dekdeken said that the empty promise of having an independent foreign policy is nothing but a lip-service with his subservience to foreign powers like the US and China. “Never had his government asserted our national sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea in exchange for hefty but onerous loans from China. The US has been given free pass to build military structures all over the country and even conduct military operations,” CPA stated.
Dekdeken said that neoliberal policies of the government have granted easier access for foreign corporations to the Philippine market to compete with local producers and traders. This resulted to the unhampered entry of imported agricultural products and basic goods that killed the local industry affecting much the livelihood of the Filipino farmers and traders.
She also criticized the new tax reform package of the Duterte administration saying it will benefit more the big businesses and the oligarchs. “Instead of addressing the current economic crisis and widespread poverty that is aggravated by the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law and high inflation rate, the regime will continue implementing TRAIN Law and other anti-people policies such as the Jeepney Modernization Program. His universal healthcare bill is directed towards privatizing hospitals and making business out of health care,” she added.