The Cordillera Peoples Alliance denounces the signing of the P3.135-billion (US $62.09 million) loan agreement for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project by the Philippine and Chinese governments last Tuesday. It is the latest move of the Duterte regime in its sell-out of our natural resources and ancestral lands to foreign investors, without consent from affected communities.
The Chico River PIP is a flagship infrastructure project under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program, with a total project cost of P4.3 billion. Top officials from the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) have earlier signed the PhP 4.3 billion contract with China CAMC Engineering Co., Ltd for the Chico River PIP last March 8, 2018. The project seeks to create canals diverting the water from the Chico River into different areas in Tuao and Piat Cagayan and Pinukpuk in Kalinga. According to the Department of Finance, the interest rate on the US Dollar denominated loan is 2% per annum with a maturity period of 20 years including a seven-year grace period.
Under the guise of advancing socio-economic agenda, the hand of foreign investors in the implementation of this project will result in the privatization of agricultural services and will force us to succumb to unfair conditions set by these corporations in exchange to access to our very own resources. This is one of the regime's means to fast-track the entry of foreign corporations to make profit from our deprivation while exploiting our natural resources.
The history of the Kaigorotan is marked by strong resistance to colonization and vehement opposition to destructive projects that encroach in and privatize ancestral lands and deny us of our rights to our very own resources. Our forefathers fought fearlessly against similar attempts in the past during the Marcos dictatorship, when the people of Kalinga and Mountain Province successfully opposed the US$ 50 million World Bank-funded Chico River Irrigation Project, also known as the Chico Dams Project, from 1976-1985.
The Chico River PIP and the series of hydropower projects along the Chico River and its tributaries will raise a spectre of the Chico Dam struggle, which is a testimony of the strength of the Cordillera peoples’ unity in opposing corporate and destructive projects that go against the interest of the people. What the peasants in Kalinga and the other Cordillera provinces have long been demanding from the government is free irrigation and appropriate irrigation systems that do not trample on our rights to our ancestral lands and that truly service the poor people. Kalinga communities affected by hydropower projects have already registered their opposition to these projects, including the Karayan Dams project.
Duterte is deaf to these calls and is instead focused in amassing all political power in the government to make it possible for him to carry-out plans based on his selfish interests and those he kowtows to. His disregard for peoples’ welfare is apparent in the way he manipulates all possible means to silence those opposed to his abuse of power through various forms of human rights violations and the continued militarization of communities.
More than ever, now is the time to heed the urgent call to rise against these unrelenting and intensified fascist attacks against the poor. Just as equally unrelenting, let us intensify our campaigns and struggle for our rights to our ancestral lands and self determination. We shall let the nation witness once again a successful defense of the Chico River to let the river flow free, and 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 peoples movement with tyranny.
From the Cordillera peoples’ defense of the Chico River in the 1970s-1980s emerged the annual peoples’ Cordillera Day celebration on April 24, the day Macliing Dulag was killed by the Philippine military in 1980. This year’s Cordillera Day celebration, which will be held at the Pacday Quino Elementary School in Barangay Asin Road on April 22-25, will tackle the different issues currently affecting Cordillera indigenous peoples, including the tyranny of the Duterte regime and the continued development aggression in our ancestral lands. #