“We commemorate the 31st Cordillera Day honoring the people’s martyrs, celebrating victories and gearing for greater challenges for the defense of our land, life and resources.”
By DEE AYROSO
BAGUIO CITY – To the beat of the gangsas and the chanting of slogans, hundreds of indigenous peoples, progressive groups and residents of Baguio City and Benguet marched here today April 24, as they called for President Beningo Aquino III’s ouster on Cordillera Day.
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) led the protest march to the adjacent regional offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), then proceeded to protest in front of SM City Baguio.
“As Filipinos and umili of the Cordillera, we have suffered enough under the corrupt, fascist and puppet US-Aquino regime,” said the CPA central statement.
“We continue to experience development aggression and imperialist plunder of our lands and resources through large and destructive mining, energy projects in the guise of ‘renewable energy,’ including tightened imperialist control of local agriculture with the implementation of the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta).
The CPA also said the government counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan had worsened “militarization in the communities, political vilification of activists leading to extrajudicial killings, other grave violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law.”
“We join other democratic sectors in calling for the ouster, resignation or removal of this regime before another calamity takes place, before another crisis happens, and before more crimes and human rights violations are committed,” said the statement.
Cordillera Day is the annual commemoration of the death of Kalinga leader Macliing Dulag, who led the successful resistance against the Chico Dam project during Martial Law, and was killed by Army soldiers on April 24, 1980.
Simultaneous activities were also held by indigenous peoples’ groups in Itogon, Benguet, Tinoc, Ifugao province, Tabuk, Kalinga province, Bangued, Abra province, Bauko, Mountain Province.
At the protest at the DENR and the MGB, Luchie Maranan, vice president of the Tongtongan ti Umili submitted to the two agencies the resolution of “The Baguio We Want People’s Summit” held in February. She also gave the agencies a copy of the resolution from the Environmental Summit held April 24, 2012, which had been submitted to the agencies three years ago.
The resolutions contained the people’s demands to reclaim their right to land, by making their voices heard through genuine government consultation, toward the implementation of laws for the protection and nurturing of the environment.
In a short dialogue, Maranan told MGB Regional Director officer-in-charge Fay Apil, that there had been no action on the resolution. Apil said they have followed laws and policies, and had not approved any mining application without the people’s consent.
“If you have been following what the people want, there would be no conflict, no resistance, no protest. But in the communities, the actual protest of the people are glaring examples that there have been manipulation in the free, prior and informed consent,” Maranan told MGB director.
“To have projects implemented, government has resorted to militarization and human rights violations, to push for ‘development projects’ that do not benefit the communities,” Maranan later told Bulatlat.com.
Proceeding to SM City, the protesters condemned the illegal cutting of trees for the expansion of the mall, and the exploitation of its contractual employees.
“SM is one of the corporations that destroy the environment and exploit the people,” said Tracy Anne Dumalo, Tongtongan ti Umili secretary general. Dumalo said that SM owner Henry Sy and his family “had enriched themselves” while their mall employees are paid only P7,000 ($155) a month.
Return to Ucab
In Itogon, Benguet, the CPA-Benguet chapter, Kabenguetan Ilaban ti Daga, Biag ken Kinabaknang (Kaiabang) led the Cordillera Day commemoration on April 23, in Ucab village. It was the second time after 23 years that it was held in the village.
Ucab was one flashpoint in the struggle against open-pit mining by the Benguet Corporation in Itogon in the mid-80s. The barricades and relentless resistance by the communities led to the formation of the Itogon Inter-barangay Alliance, or Iib-a, which also means siblings or kin in Kankana-ey and Ibaloi.
By 1996, Benguet Corp. was forced to stop all open-pit mining operations in Itogon.
Cordillera Day was preceded by the Macliing Memorial, held from 1980 to 1984. In 1985, after the founding of the CPA in June 1984, the commemoration was changed to Cordillera Day to remember all martyrs and heroes who were active in the struggles in the region.
“We commemorate the 31st Cordillera Day honoring the people’s martyrs, celebrating victories and gearing for greater challenges for the defense of our land, life and resources,” said the CPA.
“Amidst difficulties, state fascism and capitalist incursion and imperialist plunder in our communities, we continue to live out the legacy of our ancestors in asserting and defending our rights and control over our territories.”
“Macliing Dulag and all our other martyrs did not die in vain,” said the statement. “Cordillera Day and our continuing campaigns and struggles shall be raised to a higher ground until our aspirations become a reality.”