Land is Life, from Turtle Island to the Philippines: On the 36th Annual Cordillera Day

From the Coast Salish Territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) nations, Sulong UBC, an affiliate organization of Anakbayan-Canada, extends our militant solidarity to the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) on the 36th annual Cordillera Day celebration. We stand with the Indigenous peoples of the Cordillera in their struggles for self-determination and the defense of their ancestral lands as we uphold this year’s theme: “Strengthen our unity and courageously defend our ancestral land and life!”

Defend Cordillera

Protest rally at Cordillera Day, 2018

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the socioeconomic conditions experienced by Cordillera Indigenous peoples. Through militarization and the continuation of corporate mining and energy projects, that continue unabated even under enhanced community quarantine, under enhanced community quarantine, Indigenous Cordilleran’s rights to self-determination and their rights to defend their land, livelihoods, and resources continue to be under attack. 

In the midst of these attacks, the CPA continues to provide people-oriented assistance to their communities to #FightCovid19. Through the Serve the People Brigade – Cordillera Disaster Response Network the CPA and its partners have distributed much-needed food relief and protective equipment to people in need. These grassroots efforts fill the gap in services that should be provided by the government. Instead of aid and healthcare solutions, however, the Duterte regime has used the COVID-19 crisis as a cover to militarize these communities and threaten the very activists and organizers who are caring for their communities in ways that the government is not. During this crisis, instead of helping the Cordillera people, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and other Duterte supporters have red-tagged and maligned the CPA, its Regional Chairperson Windel Bolinget, and other leaders and members of the organization.

We join the CPA in condemning these intensifying attacks on environmental activists and human rights defenders in the Cordillera. Not only do these threats put the safety, security, and lives of CPA leaders and members in jeopardy, but they also promote disunity and division among Cordillera people who now, more than ever, need social solidarity. Instead of harassing these activists, the Duterte government should be providing food, economic aid, healthcare and medical support, and #MassTestingNow during this health crisis. Fighting COVID-19 requires #SolusyongMedikalHindiMilitar! Cordillera people need #AyudaHindiDahas!

Solidarity Amid COVID Crisis

International solidarity at Cordillera Day, 2018

Sulong UBC joins other progressive groups around the world in celebrating the strength and tenacity of the militant Cordillera peoples’ movement. We know from our scientific study of history both in our motherland and in the diaspora that Indigenous peoples all over the world face similar struggles against the common enemy of imperialism

In Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, where various Ifugao tribes migrated after being displaced by development aggression in the Cordillera, Duterte has authorized fuel tankers to breach a barricade erected by local communities against the OceanaGold gold and copper mine, despite the enhanced community quarantine putting the whole of Luzon under lockdown. This Indigenous community barricade was violently dispersed on April 6, 2020 by a police escort accompanying three diesel tankers attempting to enter the OceanaGold mining site. In addition to the physical harm and arrests caused by this dispersal, these actions pose both an environmental and medical threat to the people of Didipio. (Learn more and sign a statement of solidarity with the people of Didipio here.) We know that OceanaGold is a Canadian-Australian company, and as Filipinos in the diaspora living in so-called Canada, we must stand in solidarity with the people of Didipio.

Likewise, we stand with the Indigenous peoples in our own region, where we see the same callous disregard for the lives and lands of Indigenous peoples, as the Coastal Gaslink (CGL) pipeline project continues to bring workers into Wet’suwet’en territories, putting the health of these Indigenous communities at risk. We support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who have bravely and militantly opposed this project, in calling for an immediate stoppage of work and an end to the CGL’s trespass and destruction on their territories, which is endangering the health and wellbeing of their communities. 

We have seen how both the Canadian and Philippine governments have continued to defend their commercial interests and push through with environmentally destructive resource extraction projects on Indigenous lands, sometimes working hand-in-hand, even in the midst of pandemic protocols. In the words of Anakbayan-Canada, “At the same time as the Canadian ruling class enacts settler-colonial violence on Wet’suwet’en land defenders to uphold its global capitalist interests, that same Canadian ruling class works hand-in-hand with other imperialists and the Philippine traitors and sell-outs to plunder and exploit the people of the Philippines.” We urge these governments to put people over profit, and join in Anakbayan-Canada’s calls for #PublicHealthNotProfit, #LandRightsNotPlunder.

Cordi Day 2020

Flag dance at Cordillera Day, 2018

On this day in 1980, soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division assassinated Kalinga pangat (tribal chieftain) Macliing Dulag and injured Pedro Dungoc. Despite this act of military terrorism, the Bontoc and Kalinga peoples continued their struggle and succeeded in defeating the Marcos’ World Bank-funded Chico Dam project. Without their bravery, ferocity, and commitment, numerous tribes along the Chico River’s path would have been displaced from their ancestral lands. Since then, progressive Indigenous peoples throughout the Cordillera have gathered not only to commemorate Macliing Dulag’s death, but also build unity and solidarity among the different Indigenous peoples of the Cordillera and to advocate together for their local, provincial, and regional issues. Cordillera Day celebrations have since sprung up around the world, including in Hong Kong, Belgium, Macau, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, and what is currently known as Canada. 

Though we cannot be there in person, Sulong UBC virtually joins the CPA in remembering these Cordilleran martyrs and heroes. We strive to honour their memory by supporting the continuing fight of the Cordilleran peoples against state fascism, development aggression, historic government neglect, and attacks on Indigenous culture. As Filipino youth and students in the diaspora who are dedicated to the movement for national democracy we call on all Filipino youth to join in the international anti-imperialist and anti-fascist movement. Join the Philippine national liberation struggle! Join Anakbayan to fight our common enemy!


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