Resist Tyranny: Kaigorotan, Lumaban!

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Every year since 1981, the Cordillera people have commemorated the death of Ama Macliing Dulag on April 24 and the historic struggle of the Cordillera people to stop the building of the World-Bank funded Chico River Hydro-Electric Dam Project of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The killing of Ama Macliing Dulag in 1980 at the height of the indigenous resistance to the proposed construction of four hydro-electric dams only strengthened the determination of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera to further unite to defend their collective rights over their land and resources. They successfully STOPPED the building of the dams. This year marks the 35th celebration of Cordillera Day (known earlier as Macliing Memorial Day for the first four years) and it has become the biggest annual political solidarity gathering of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera, together with friends and advocates from the different parts of the Philippines and from overseas.

This year’s Cordillera Day is not only a celebration of the historic achievements and victories of the Cordillera people but also a call to arms to “Resist Tyranny: Advance the Politics of Change and Self Determination!”—the theme of this year’s Cordillera Day. This is in the light of the current attacks against the Cordillera people and the Chico River that Ama Macliing Dulag gave his life to protect – I am referring to the Duterte Government’s Chico River Pump Irrigation Project(CRPIP) which would build 12 hydropower projects along the Chico River.

The CRPIP seeks to create canals to divert the water from the Chico River into the  different areas in Tuao and Piat Cagayan and Pinukpuk in Kalinga. Bestang Dekdeken, spokesperson of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, told Kodao Productions that allowing foreign investors in the implementation of projects like the Chico River PIP will result in the privatization of agricultural services and that “This is one of the regime’s means to fast-track the entry of foreign corporations to make profit from our deprivation while exploiting our natural resources.” She also added that the people of Kalinga and other farmers already have their fields irrigated by the Chico River and these have been “free and appropriate irrigation systems that do not take over ancestral lands and these directly benefit the people.” Never mind that the Duterte government has violated the Indigenous people’s rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and has therefore violated their rights to exercise sovereignty over their ancestral domains.

The Chico River PIP by the Duterte Government is also funded with a P3.6 billion loan from China which has been described as a “debt trap”. Why? Because the Philippine government agreed that if it defaults on its payment of this loan, then China can take control of the Philippines’ patrimonial properties and trample on our national sovereignty. This is the same Duterte government that has allowed the Chinese government’s occupation of  the West Philippine Sea and militarization of the Philippines’ exclusive Economic Zone and has ignored the fact that China has virtually driven Filipino fisherfolk from their traditional fishing grounds. We have someone at the helm of the Philippine government who will either turn a blind eye to attacks on Philippine sovereignty or sell our patrimony with no qualms at all.

How easily tyrants forget. The tyrant Duterte would do well to remember what happened to another tyrant’s Chico Dam Project in the ‘80s in the face of a united, determined, solid Indigenous People’s resistance.

Dekdeken sums it pretty well: “We shall let the nation witness once again a successful defense of the Chico River to let the river flow free, as the fire of our dissent engulfs a tyrant’s aspiration for absolute power. Never will we let it be recorded in history that a fascist ruler has crushed the people’s movement with tyranny.” 

I will end with a quote from solidarity message from Bayan Canada, the alliance of Filipino progressive organizations in Canada: “As we commemorate Ama Macli-ing Dulag, we also recognize the Indigenous activists who continue his legacy by defending their ancestral domains and fighting for self determination. We honour and commend the role these activists play not only in the struggle for Indigenous rights in the Philippines, but in the struggle for national democracy and a just and lasting peace in the Philippines. Truly, there is much to celebrate and so much more to be done. From thousands of miles away, we hear the sounds of your gongs and feel the ground shake with the stomping of feet as all of you on Cordillera Day dance in resistance and in celebration!” 

No to large dams! Let the Cordillera rivers flow free! Junk the CRPIP loan agreement! Defend the rivers, land and resources! Kaigorotan, lumaban!

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