By Simon "Ka Filiw" Naogsan, Spokesperson
Cordillera Peoples' Democratic Front (CPDF)
an allied member of the NDFP
The Cordillera People's Democratic Front supports the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Chadli Molintas Command of the New People's Army in the Ilocos-Cordillera Region. The CPDF also calls on all activists and revolutionary organizations to actively take part in search, rescue, relief, recovery and rehabilitation operations amidst the worst calamity that has hit the region since the 1990 earthquake.
Hundreds have died and scores more are missing. Thousands of families have lost property and livelihoods. Crops are rotting in the field or drowned in flood. Large parts of the region are isolated due to the unprecedented number and severity of road damage. Relief goods and medical help barely reach those who are most in need.
This disaster highlights the Arroyo government's lack of preparation and the consequences of its corruption. The road projects that suffered the most damage are those being questioned because of substandard work tolerated by corrupt government agencies and officials. Up to 40% of infrastructure project funds go to corrupt government officials, drastically reducing the amount available for actual implementation.
Lowland provinces, especially Pangasinan, were deluged by the ill-planned release of huge volumes of water from the San Roque Dam. The flooding was aggravated by the heavy siltation of major Cordillera rivers due to the mine tailings dumped by Benguet Corporation, Philex Mining Corporation and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation.
The CPDF submits that corrupt government officials and contractors must answer for the damage to property and the lives lost due to substandard construction of roads and other infrastructure projects.
The operator of the San Roque Dam, along with his inept personnel must be held accountable for their ill-planned release of water that deluged the lowlands. The release of water could have been done at a slower rate had the dam operator and his personnel instituted basic and correct mandatory procedures to ensure the safety of the thickly populated communities downstream.
There must be recognition and respect of indigenous people's rights to land, especially in urbanized areas. Wide tracts of land appropriated by military, government institutions, industrial zones, and resorts must be fairly made available to the growing urban population in the Cordillera so that the poor do not have to build congested communities on unstable slopes.
Sustainable and environmentally sound farming practices must be popularized among the people to replace the environmentally unsound farming practices being pushed by multinational agribusiness entities.
This disaster is a wake-up call. We now see the consequences of decades of mining and logging operations in the Cordillera. We now feel the impact of widespread corruption. Let us learn the lessons of the struggle against the Cellophil Resource Corporation and Chico River Dam where armed resistance coupled with militant inter-tribal mass action prevented large-scale destruction of the mountain and timberland communities.
Mabtad! Unite to assist our kakailian (compatriots) in their time of great need. Form disaster brigades and train them for emergencies.
Not one hectare more! Unite to defend the environment from further pillage by mines, dams, logging concessions and other extractive industries.