By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
On the occasion of Cordillera Day 2011, we the International League of Peoples’ Struggle express our warmest greetings of solidarity to all the delegates and distinguished guests and to all the people of Cordillera, the overall host Cordillera People’s Association and the local hosts Kakailian SalaknibanTay Amin a Nagtaudan (KASTAN), Timpuyog dagiti Umili iti Lacub, Bantayan Ekolohiya ken Kinabaknang (Lacub Peopleâ€™s Federation for Ecological and Resource Protection).
We have the highest appreciation for the Cordillera People’s Alliance and the people of Cordillera in faithfully celebrating Cordillera Day since 1985 on the basis of the earlier Macliing Memorials (1980-1984), in order to affirm the Cordillera people’s unity in defending their ancestral domain and in struggling for self determination and national democracy.
Cordillera Day has been consecrated by the blood of martyrs, starting with Ama Macliing Dulag and Pedro Dungoc who led the struggle against the World Bank-funded Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dam Project of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The day is annually celebrated by the people in the Philippines and abroad to refresh our collective memory and renew our resolve to continue with the struggle for national liberation, democracy, social justice and development in the interest of the people.
We welcome your current theme, Live Out Our Glorious History of Struggle! Fight for Land, Life and Honor. In this regard, it is of great importance that you focus on such burning issues as mining, militarization, and human rights violations. These involve the exploitation and oppression of the people of Cordillera and require their resolute and militant resistance and the active support of the entire Filipino people and the people of the world.
A million hectares or 51% of the Cordillera land area is covered by the licensed operations and pending applications of transnational corporations and their Filipino partners. This involves grabbing the land, the mineral resources, the forests and the rivers from the people for the purpose of plunder and in the process causing environmental destruction and pollution at the expense of the indigenous Cordillera communities as well as the people in the lowlands.
Militarization and human rights violations are concomitant to mining. To suppress the people’s resistance and impose the large mining projects, the state has deployed four regular battalions and three special battalions of the Philippine Army to the mining areas in the Cordillera region. As a result, gross and systematic human rights violations occur.
It is appropriate to hold Cordillera Day 2011 in Lacub because this municipality is rich in gold ore deposits and several mining companies, like the Golden Lake Mineral Resources and the Titan Exploration and Development Corporation, are determined to exploit several sites. It is necessary for us to join the people of Lacub in their struggle against the mining companies and to manifest to them our sympathy and support for their struggle.
It is always inspiring to recall and highlight the historic resistance of the indigenous Tinggians of Abra to the logging of their forests by Cellophil Resources Corporation during the years of the US-Marcos dictatorship. Once more we must draw lessons from this successful struggle in addressing the urgent issues confronting the Cordillera peoples today.
Taking the cue from reactionary national officials, certain provincial and local officials claim that mining will bring progress and prosperity. They deliberately obscure the fact that areas in the Cordillera like Tuba, Itogon, Tublay, Kibungan and Mankayan, which have been heavily mined for decades, have nothing to show but severe poverty of the people and devastation of the land. That is also true in other gold mining areas such as Marinduque, Toledo in Cebu and those in Mindanao.
The mining companies promise to repair the Lacub road and build a bridge across the Malanas River. But of course, they will do so in order to facilitate their mining operations. After they deplete the nonrenewable gold resource, they will leave the area and its already overused road and bridge in a state of disrepair. They are no different from the corrupt politicians who steal year in and year out the public money that is appropriated for building the infrastructure.
Mining projects are accompanied by militarization. Lacub is now surrounded by large semi-permanent detachments of the Philippine Army in the nearby municipalities of Lagangilang, Baay-Licuan, and Malibcong. At increasing frequency, the Philippine Army fields platoons to Lacub, to undertake so-called counter-insurgency operations. In 2008, a Special Operations Team (SOT) of the 41st IB controlled the village of Talampac for a full year in order to destroy the community organization.
In the province of Abra, both the Philippine Army and the private armies of corrupt politicians are flagrantly serving the interest of the mining companies. Two battalions of the Philippine Armyâ€™s 5th Infantry Division are deployed here â€“ the 41st IB in the north and the 50th IB in the south. In addition, there are the so-called counter-insurgency strike force, the 52nd DRC (Division Reconnaissance Company) and a company of the 77th IB, which serves as the cadre corps for the paramilitary Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU).
Their announced mission is to destroy the New Peopleâ€™s Army (NPA) and to enable so-called developers, such as the large mining companies, to plunder the natural resources and destroy the environment. But the indigenous people of Lacub are determined to assert their right of ancestral domain and to build their strength. They are proud of their long history of struggle to defend land, life and honor.
They continue to live up to their heroic record of having played the central role in the successful Tinggian resistance to the logging operations of the Marcos dictatorship’s Cellophil. They have repeatedly played a crucial role in preventing various administrations from implementing the Marcos plan to dam the Binongan river. The community of Buneg, in particular, has been courageous in stopping a local warlord from seizing their small-scale mining sites.
We look forward to the success of Cordillera Day 2011 in assessing the Cordillera situation in the context of the Philippine and world situation and in defining the tasks of the Cordillera People’s Association on the ample basis of your appraisal of the situations in Abra, Apayao, Kalinga, Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province and Baguio City.
We hope that you can arrive at a comprehensive and incisive understanding of the Cordillera situation and the challenges. The workshops on regional autonomy and self-determination, mining: small scale and large scale; human rights and Oplan Bayanihan; climate change and disaster management should be able to help you define and deal with the issues.
We wish you maximum success in formulating the Unity Pact by combining the wisdom of the elders and tribal leaders, the dynamism of the mass organizations and the available expertise from the relevant disciplines. It is of urgent importance that the elders and tribal leaders preside over the forging of a multilateral unity pact to resist mining plunder and human rights violations. In view of the governmentâ€™s attempt to make a third organic act for a Cordillera autonomous region, it is also necessary to take a clear and firm stand on the subject of genuine regional autonomy and self-determination.
We are hopeful that Cordillera Day 2011 enables you to sum up the situation and the experience of struggle, learn both positive and negative lessons, consolidate achievements, overcome shortcomings and set forth the tasks for strengthening your fighting will and capabilities, achieving greater victories and raising to a new and higher level the struggle of the people of Cordillera for self-determination and national democracy. ###