Cordillera Day Issue 2006
Keynote Address by CPA Founding Chair, Atty. William Claver
Greetings to all of us!
The whole of Kalinga became known as the Province of Guinaang, or, to the Spaniards who had a hard time pronouncing the correct term, Guinananes. They used the term to refer to the area between Butbot up to Pinukpok. Why the focus on the term “Guinaang”? — because, even at that time, Guinaang was considered the most progressive area of Kalinga. And the reason for such progress was the gold that was in Guinaang. That gold was also what drew the interest of the Spaniards.
This interest in the gold in Guinaang was what pushed the Spaniards to try to control the area. They started the road work from Abra going towards Guinaang. They also started the establishment of a horse trail from Cervantes towards the same area. These efforts to penetrate the wilderness were however abandoned before 1850—the road from Abra was only able to reach up to Balbalasang, and the horse trial up the area below Lubuagan. It was this same horse trail that Emilio Aguinaldo used in his attempt to escape the pursuing Americans many years later. To the Spaniards and to Aguinaldo, the areas of Guinaang and Balatoc were considered inaccessible. It was the Americans who were able to finally reach the area and establish the mines, which later came to be known in modern day times as the Batong Buhay Gold Mines.
What can we learn from that little story? We learn that right here in the heart of the Cordillera, we have a large supply of gold and mineral resources. We learn that both the Spaniards and American invaders had only one object in mind—and that is to establish their mines in order to extract the gold and other minerals for themselves, and any “so-called” development they bring is all geared towards attaining their interests. And finally, when we see that the level of social and infrastructure development in the Guinaang and Balatoc areas has not really advances despite the mines, we learn that establishment of mines does not necessarily benefit the people of the Cordilleras.
I would also like to point out that this is not a story exclusive to Kalinga. For, in my own experience, I have found that story duplicated in various parts of the Cordillera.
I was involved in monitoring the environmental impact of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company many years ago. While viewing the effect of mine tailings released into the natural waterways, a government expert of the then Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources ruefully commented that no usable plant would be able to grown in the affected lands for the next 100 years and even more. But later, when we finally got his report, do you know, my friends, that he changed his tune? He instead wrote that the infertility of the soil was not caused by the mines.
At that time, I was the legal counsel of Lepanto, and concurrently a councilor in the municipal council of Mankayan. Lepanto gave me the task of getting the municipal government to allow Lepanto to mine above Level 100, which was immediately below the most populous area of the town proper of Mankayan. What caught my suspicion was the fact that when the municipal government finally gave its approval, the contents of the resolution was never disclosed to me, nor was I made to sign it. Simultaneously, Lepanto ordered me to find legal ways to drive out the natives in the long-existing villages within the mining claim of Lepanto. This prodded me to resign from Lepanto to take up a position in the governor’ s office of the old Mountain Province in mid-1965. It was years later, in 1972, when the effect of that resolution manifested itself when the Elementary School building of Mankayan started to tilt, then sink. And again, the government investigation declared that the sinking of Mankayan is not attributed to the mining activities.
Then again in 1971, when I was in the Constitutional Convention, the mineral deposits of the Baguio Gold Mining Company were exhausted. Baguio Gold then decided to expel the long-time residents in the area in order to build a subdivision exclusively for the rich. And do you know how they were able to do that? Because they had patented mining titles to the land. Patented mining titles are much more superior compared to the ordinary land titles because the mining patentee not only owns the minerals underneath but also the land and trees aboveground.
So my friends, so much for my experiences regarding the exploitative and anti-people face of mining in Southern Cordillera. Let us go back to the north—back to Batong Buhay.
Several mining companies have successfully operated Batong Buhay in its many years of operation, before the Philippine government took over in 1985. Some actually operated the mine, but others actually used it for speculative purposes. All of them had only one thing in mind—profit. And when the State took over, the mines became an instrument of graft and corruption.
A glaring example was the government funds intended for the improvement of the road network in the Cordillera leading to Batong Buhay. Instead of using the funds within the Cordillera as intended, it was used to open Port Irene (the seaport from which BBGMI ore is shipped out), the cementing of the roads from Cagayan from Tuguegarao to Port Irene, and in the road improvement from the national highway in Gamu to Roxas in Isabela. The bias against upland development can clearly be seen in the State priorities.
And even after operations stopped, Batong Buhay never stopped being a source of corruption. For when you ask where all the old equipment and facilities of Batong Buhay went, you will find out they were carted away by our politicians here, and of neighboring provinces.
It was the consistent effort of landowners from Isabela, Cagayan and Kalinga, under the leadership of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, which provided the fuel to the movement to stop the operations of the Batong Buhay Gold Mines, The people of Uma, Lubuagan know this for a fact, because at that time, Uma was the base of networking of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance.
The indigenous peoples of the Cordillera are being made pawns for exploitative business ventures which may be real or speculative. In either case, the indigenous peoples always end up losers. All mining technology currently in use, including much touted state-of-the-art mining technology, are ALWAYS destructive of community cohesiveness as well as environmental integrity.
From our long experience, the hidden motivation in any mining business venture s always based on greed. And as we know, greed is the breeding basis of all evil. We do not even need to o further our for proof, as we have experienced it right here in Batong Buhay.
I will say it again—in the present system and dispensation, there is no hope in mining as a savior, but instead a devil incarnate in its destruction of peoples, and of the environment.
And now, all this is complicated by the kind of government that we have at present. this government is using its military and police forces as instruments in imposing its government pursuits, as well as to cover up its corrupt practices in its unequaled proportions.
Given such a situation, what are we to do? A review of our responses in the past may be of help.
In 1971, at the Constitutional Convention, I sponsored an Ancestral Domain Bill and a particular form of Autonomous Government to be granted to the cultural communities. I was successful in having both bills passed and approved in plenary session, but through the lobbying of logging and mining concessionaires, the bills were shelved in July 1972. Despite my appeals to the governors and congressmen of then Kalinga-Apayao, Benguet, Mt. Province and Abra to help lobby so that the bill could be brought back to the floor for discussion, none of them responded. The bills were never taken up again, as martial law followed.
The evens that followed are now well known. For the first time, Kalinga and Bontoc villages found a common aspiration. Unity was achieved through bodong networking, thus giving birth to the Kaling-Bontoc Peace Pact Holders Association, which then took the cudgel in the movement to oppose the dam.
The success of the Association in opposing the dam attracted the support of non-Chico River villages, such as Abra, the South Western Cordillera areas and Apayao. This widening of the opposition movement and consciousness of our rights as cultural minorities led to the birth of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. And this also marked the rebirth of Ancestral Domain as our shield in fighting martial law, and the idea of autonomy as the governing principle. And this bore fruit when these aspirations were enshrined in the 1987 Constitution .
As a people, we were able to achieve constitutional provisions for autonomy, ancestral domain, and regionalization. That is how we have a Cordillera Administrative Region.
What do these past experiences teach us?
It teaches us that not all our politicians can be depended upon. It teaches us that we can only reliably depend on ourselves as ordinary indigenous peoples. It teaches us that our problems as a people — exploitation, mining, logging, environmental degradation, political repression, human rights abuses — can be fought and won only through Unity and Militant Action. Such is the reason of being of the CPA, which has for its complete name, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance for the Defense of the Ancestral Domain.
Let us continue to persevere. Though we have significant gains in the past, the orad ahead remains rocky and long. Let us continue what we have started. Let us continue to spread the net of unity and tighten the same. Only throughunity can we have strength, and only through militant action can a deaf State listen to us.
Agbiag ti Cordillera! Agbiag
ti CPA! Agbiag tayo amin! ###