By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — With the theme “Fight for Our Land, Life and Rights!” the Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Peoples’ rights advocates in six provinces of the region staged the 28th Cordillera Day (CD) through celebrations in their respective areas that also served as mass actions calling for the pullout of military troops from communities and an end to large-scale plunder of Cordillera lands.
The celebrations also observed the earth day on April 22.
In a press conference for the launch of separate region-wide celebrations, Geraldine Cacho of the Tongtongan Ti Umili – Cordillera Peoples Alliance (TTU-CPA) also announced the program of the Cordillera Day 2012 commemoration in the City of Baguio.
The Baguio Cordillera Day is aimed at gathering multi-sectoral groups into participating in the 2012 environmental summit. Here, she said they have organized discussions and workshops on different developmental issues currently faced by the city. This includes: garbage and pollution, water crisis, expansion of big businesses destroying the city’s environment, urban poor and human rights issues.
Cacho said that on the 28th Cordillera Day, the people of Cordillera have a venue to further drumbeat their opposition to destructive large-scale mining companies. She said that under the present administration, just like the previous ones, mining corporations are prioritized at the expense of the people.
The current president, she said, does not really care about the fate of the people and the environment as large mining corporations swarm to dig both in mountain territories of the indigenous peoples and along the country’s shores.
Katribu Party List regional spokesperson Samuel Anongos said that with the entry of large corporate mining companies, the government deploys troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to the communities especially where there is strong people’s opposition to large-scale mining.
He said soldiers often put up camps inside communities; they even occupy schools, day care centers and village health centers. He added that many atrocities have been documented as committed everywhere there are deployed military.
Cacho cited the rape of a 16-year old girl in Mankayan, Benguet where an army captain belonging to the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army was identified as the culprit.
According to Cacho, the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan, like with the previous administration, is geared toward attacking leaders and members of organizations and peoples movements fighting for rights and welfare. She said that in Oplan Bayanihan, persons and organizations particularly those who are critical of the government’s anti-people policies and who are opposed to the total sell-out of the country’s patrimony are vilified and subjected to extra-judicial killings, abductions and other harassments.
Cacho said that the six provinces of the Cordillera are marked by mining applications and explorations. The territories of the indigenous peoples of the region are endangered, she said, as a result of the destructive nature of corporate mining. The people will be displaced from their lands and many of them will go to places like Baguio where they will swell the number of urban poor, she added.
Anongos said thousands of people of the Cordillera Region, and from other regions, provinces and cities of the country were set to participate this Cordillera Day 2012, IPs and other peoples from abroad are also expected to attend the CD provincial activities.
As the victories of the struggles of the IPs of Cordillera will be celebrated, Anongos said they will pay tribute to the martyrs and those who dedicated their life and services to the defense of the Cordillera homeland.