By JITEN YUMNAM
“This is our land, we lived here, we will die here”
Sustained people’s resistance has prevented dam building companies and mining companies from pursuing their operations and expansion in the Cordillera.
The combined legal and political actions of the Bakun communities have delayed Royalco’s exploration for the Gambang Copper-Gold Project. In Benguet province, sustained community barricades have prevented Lepanto and the South African mining company Goldfields from conducting exploration drilling for the Far Southeast Gold Project. In Kalinga province, the villagers opposed the mining plan of Lepanto. Kalinga communities affected by hydropower projects registered their opposition to these projects, including the Karayan Dam project.
The Naneng, Dallak, and Minanga tribes in their letter to NCIP in the region rejecting the project stated, “… this land is our source of our living and also where we buried our ancestors. …we are afraid that rebellion will arise and blood will be shed” . The effort to build dams is despite the presence of 200 MW Ambuklao, the 1,000 MW San Roque Dam etc. The Cordillera remains one of poorest in the Philippines despite its rich mineral resources and subsequent exploitation by the multinational companies. One has to ride on motor bikes on rugged, narrow and steep road revealing the hardship endured by villagers to avail of education, health facilities and to market their agriculture produces.
The serene landscape conceals the manifestation of persisting unresolved armed conflict situation within which indigenous peoples are forced to endure for generations in Cordillera. The people however are much adamant about their rights, land, cultures, traditional and survival of their coming generations.
Land is life, land is the livelihood source they have nurtured with their sweat and blood for generations. Allowing corporations to plunder their land will affect their identity, impoverish them and destroy their future.
An elder from Camandag Barangay said, “This is our land, we lived here, we will die here”, highlighting the anger and the spirit of his people to resist all forceful, destructive development processes.
Another elder from Binablayan said, “Younger generations need to appreciate the importance and value of land and natural resources and strive to protect it for coming generations”.
“Chico once More”
An obvious reality within indigenous peoples land is change, rooted in the deepening of State’s oppressive nature, the onslaught and savagery of neoliberal forces, destroying peoples’ land, lives and their future. Across Ifugao, one could perceive realities of how the land, forest, rivers, resources and peoples’ lives are subjected to aggressive efforts for economic and political domination by State and neoliberal forces, relegating communities inhabiting the land for generations to extreme forms of oppression and violence.
However, the aggressive push for unsustainable development and deepening of the involvement of neoliberal forces, such as the plan for massive development for hydropower generation, geothermal plants, mining with tacit support of the Philippines State and its machineries poses an enormous challenge for the people of Cordillera to defend their land.
The aggressive development onslaught has provoked the Indigenous peoples to recall the struggles and sacrifices of leaders in 1980s and to draw inspiration, build unity and solidarity within communities. The indigenous peoples of Kalinga and Mountain Province successfully opposed the US$ 50 million World Bank-funded Chico River Irrigation Project, also known as the Chico Dams Project, from 1976-1985. The martyrdom of Macliing Dulag in the resistance had long been a source of inspiration to resist imperialist forces and to assert their self-determination over their land.
The unfolding adverse reality is a big challenge for the present generation and leaders in Cordillera. Indigenous peoples assert that the recognition of their right to self-determination, to their ancestral lands, territories and resources, and to free, prior and informed consent, as per provisions of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 will foster meaningful and genuine sustainable development in the Cordillera. Forging and deepening solidarity among indigenous peoples is perilous to combat state oppression, offensive and militarism of imperialist forces and in asserting their self-determination and liberation.
One recalls the sacrifices of Macliing Dulag while listening to deeds, spirits and efforts of Ricardo Mayumi, during the tribute in his village at Huhlukan, Binablayan. Indeed, community leaders commenced sacrificing themselves. “Chico Once More’, is already the slogan among community leaders, reflecting the resolve to continue the legacy of resistance and struggle of their leaders for their land and rights. Leaders like Mayumi already followed the footsteps of their elders, showing the light to others, with his indomitable spirits, relentless struggles and sacrifices. The legacy of resistance and the sacrifices of leaders, appreciating the sanctity of the land will continue to inspire and guide in all moments of struggles for self-determination and liberation in the Cordillera highlands and far beyond. # nordis.net