By CIELO MARIE L. ESMERIA
BAGUIO CITY — Local issues of mining and energy, militarization, human rights violations, and regional autonomy were brought by more than 200 indigenous peoples (IPs) representing the Cordillera region as they joined the caravan of national minorities from October 12-21, 2016.
The national caravan dubbed the “Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan” (Journey of the National Minorities for Self-Determination and Just Peace) is participated in by IPs from different regions and Moro peoples to show their unity in asserting their right to self-determination – the right to fully control their political climate, culture, and economy at their own pace – and their aspiration for just peace.
“Peace is not just the absence of war. Peace for us means there should be the recognition of our right to self-determination, our collective rights to our ancestral lands, our government system, our indigenous socio-political institutions, and our indigenous culture and identity,” said Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) Chairperson Windel Bolinget in a press conference.
According to Bolinget, delegates from the Cordillera put forward the permanent closure of private corporations such as Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company to stop the plunder of Cordillera’s natural resources. The delegates also lobbied for the closure of a hydro energy project in Ifugao and a geothermal plant in Kalinga. The Cordillera IPs also passionately stressed their intense support for genuine regional autonomy where Cordillera’s territorial indivisibility (6 provinces and Baguio City) must be respected.
Bolinget stated that Cordillera IPs will also promote their peace agenda in the ongoing Peace Talks between the government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to ensure the inclusion of national minorities (NMs) in the talks on socio-economic reforms.
According to Imelda Tabiando, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance secretary general, the delegates also carried their issues against the continuing militarization and human rights violations in the Cordillera. Tabiando said there are ongoing military operations and encampments in the areas of Kalinga, Abra, and Ifugao.
Cordillera delegates rallied for the pull-out of the Armed Forces of the Philippines forces from the Cordilleras, the stop to Operation Plan Bayanihan, and for the freedom of all political prisoners.
Bolinget invited everyone, not only the I:Ps, to join and support the Lakbayan 2016.
“Hindi lang ito para sa CPA. Ito ay para sa ating lahat kasi ang pinaglalaban natin ay hindi para sa indibidwal na interes. Itong sinasabi nating pag-unlad, demokrasya, independent foreign policy, ito ay hindi para sa CPA. Ito ay para sa sambayanang Pilipino kasama na ang mga mamayan ng Kordilyera kaya mahalagang suportahan natin ito,” (This is not just for the CPA. This is for every Filipino because what we are fighting for is not for individual interest. This development, democracy, independent foreign policy, this is not for the CPA. This is for the Filipino nation along with people of Cordillera that is why it is important we support this,” said Bolinget.
The Cordillera delegation is part of the expected 3,000 minorities converged at the National Capital Region since October 13, 2016. A formal alliance as national minorities nation-wide will be established in an assembly on October 14-15. There will be a Kampuhan hosted by UP Diliman during the whole caravan’s stay where there is an ongoing series of cultural exchanges, solidarity events, and educational fora. There will also be a chain of engagements with government agencies, the House of Representatives, and mining and energy corporations. # nordis.net