Cordillera Struggles Inspire Taiwan IPs

Though the government built homes for the IPs, Piyas said, these are “too far from work and school.” He said that it would be difficult for them to transfer their children from one school to another because they would have to pay again for school fees, additional transport and other costs. And since they are not legal residents and therefore, have no papers, it is difficult for their children to be accepted in schools.

If they would be relocated to the resettlement areas provided by the government, Piyas said they would still have to pay NT 2,000-3,000 a month as rent. And with this additional cost, he said, they might not be able to pay for their other basic needs like education.

Piyas and Sili computed the average monthly living expenses vis-à-vis the income of those living in urban poor communities.

About NT 7,000 would be spent for the food of a family, which normally has five members; NT 1,500 for water, electricity, gas and other utilities; NT 1,000 for transportation; NT 3,000-4,000 for education fees. To sum it up, a family of five is spending about NT 32,000-33,000 a month for their basic needs, excluding health insurance and social need. This is higher than the usual income of a working father, which averages from NT 20,000-30,000.

Men’s usual jobs are in construction, with no regular job orders and no stable salary, said Piyas. Women, on the other hand, help augment their husband’s salary by vending vegetables or even taking easier and lighter tasks in construction.

Problems with jobs

Since companies in Taiwan need to pay Taiwan nationals higher salaries, more have been employing foreign workers who are willing to accept lower salaries. Some IPs see the influx of migrant workers as the reason for the dearth in jobs available for them.

“Some IP groups think that migrants take the jobs that could have been for them but they don’t realize that it is the fault of the government for not providing enough jobs and the capitalists for exploiting migrant workers who are paid lower wages,” said Piyas.

Another problem IPs encounter is the technological advances of factories in Taiwan. Piyas said that many factories in Taiwan have transferred operations to third world countries to avail of cheaper operational costs, including lower wages. Factories that are left in Taiwan are so technologically advanced that IPs could no longer do these jobs.

Worse in RP

Philippine and Taiwan IPs may have similar issues of being marginalized, discriminated against, oppressed and deprived of their ancestral lands. But the IPs from Taiwan and the Philippines agreed that Philippine IPs’ issues are worse because they have shed blood and have been sacrificing their lives until now. Markus Bangit and Alyce Claver are just some of the victims of political killings in the Cordilleras.

“Philippine government even ignores the right to life,” said Tobias, noting that they have not experienced political killings in their country.


Members of the Atayal and Paiwan tribes are inspired by the struggles of the Philippine IPs, particularly the Cordillera peoples.

“I like the Philippine organizing, the spirit of fighting,” said Tobias who said that he learned the power of organizing people for a common cause from his exposures to the struggle of the Cordillera peoples. He said that since his first Cordillera Day, he has taken the lessons he learned with him to Taiwan and used them in organizing people to fight for their rights.

He has helped linked over 40 tribes to hold coordinated protest actions like the simultaneous setting of fire in their respective communities. This action was part of their ritual of asking guidance from their ancestors during the time they have been confronting restrictions in hunting.

“People are organized here. They clearly know what the situation is and why it is happening. In Taiwan, the people don’t know how to unite against issues. They act more on individual interests,” said Piyas.

But more than just learning from the Cordillera people, Taiwan IPs are in solidarity with the Philippine IPs and the Filipino people in their struggles.

Last year, after attending the Cordillera Day celebrations in Baguio City, Piyas and other members of the initially-formed Yilan County Kanke Indigenous Peoples’ Sustainable Development Association (Yikida) formed the Taiwan Committee for Philippine Concerns. This committee has been campaigning for Philippine issues like political killings.

The formation of Yikida was a result of their July to August 2007 exposure trips in different IP and urban poor communities in the Cordilleras. After returning to Taiwan, Piyas and his companions formally launched Yikida last October and practiced what they have learned from Filipino organizing work.

Tobias, on the other hand, said that his group’s participation every Cordillera Day is “part of their support to let Filipinos know they’re not alone.” Tobias also helped formed an organization in Taiwan helping IPs and poor Taiwanese. (

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