By SIMON NAOGSAN (Ka Filiw)
Spokesperson, Cordillera People’s Democratic Front
Reports coming from operational commands of the New People’s Army clearly shows that military operations and deployment in the different provinces in the Ilocos-Cordillera Region have targeted areas marked by criss-crossing and overlapping applications for large-scale corporate mining, hydropower and geothermal interests, and disrupt the upcoming simultaneous celebrations of the historic Cordillera Day.
Consequently, human rights and international humanitarian covenants violations continue to go unabated. The Cordillera People’s Democratic Front warns the mercenary Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that its role in safeguarding anti-people mining interests as an investment defence force will be met with revolutionary action.
In upland Bontoc, units of the 54th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have recently saturated these areas. Particularly in Dalican, army troopers have occupied civilian houses, thereby disrupting the ongoing relocation activities of the entire community.
In the neighbouring community of Mainit, in the guise of being there for “peace and development”, the AFP troops have actually busied themselves extorting from small scale miners and collecting money from foreign national ore buyers. Likewise in nearby Guinaang, they have utilized harassment and psychological warfare tactics to dissuade the community folk from hosting the Cordillera Day celebrations on the 24th of April.
In Salegseg, Balbalan, Kalinga, elements of the 21st Infantry Battalion (Philippine Army) are presently occupying the home economics building of the St. Teresa school and the barangay hall, just as classes ended since 09 April to date. This comes close on the heels after the news came out in the media that Cordillera Exploration Co., Inc. (CExCI)/ Nickel-Asia Corporation will start drilling operations in a 7,000-hectare exploration area covering the two barangays (villages) of the Buwaya tribe, aside from three other nearby barangays.
On a larger scale, the 15,880 hectares exploration application of CExCI, now partially owned by Sumitomo, covers the municipalities of Baay-Licuan, Malibcong and Daguioman, all municipalities of Abra province as well as Balbalan in Kalinga province.
The ongoing military operations also prepares for the resumption this quarter of the drilling operations in nearby Balatoc, Pasil, Kalinga by Freemont-McMoran, the new owner of Phelps-Dodge and its subsidiary Makilala. Freeport/Makilala also has an ongoing Field Based Investigation in Guinaang, Pasil. According to the Lejo Cawilan Command of the New People’s Army-Kalinga, Balbalan is also the site of three planned hydropower dams along the Saltan river to be constructed by the AV Garcia Electric System.
For the information of the 21st and 54th Infantry Battalions, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and other international protocols on the conduct of war does not make exemptions to the occupation of educational facilities as military garrisons.
In the Ilocos provinces, elements of the 3rd Infantry Battalion, 7th Infantry Division (Philippine Army) keeps combat patrols targeting areas that are covered by off-shore and inland mining applications and present operations. Field reports have it that even during the Lenten season, combat operations have been ongoing contrary to their pronouncements that they declared a unilateral ceasefire during the period.
In Mankayan, Benguet, elements of the 86th Infantry Battalion in their overzealous but desperate efforts to bring home olive branches of victories of ‘peace and development’ to prop up their sagging morale, have tried to apply the twin tactics of disguising themselves as NPA units to gain entry in the communities, squeeze information, and consequently subject the village folk they hoodwinked to harassments and reprisals.
The same tactic of disguising as NPA units are being employed in the eastern Mountain Province and Ifugao, deceiving the unsuspecting masses who usually share food and shelter to their true people’s army.
The continued presence of the reactionary army troopers in Mankayan and the nearby communities of Tadian, Mt. Province garrisoned within populated centers, put into imminent danger the civilian’s lives and properties. Also, the likes of Philippine Army Capt. Danny Lalin, a rapist who preys on minors, still looms in the area. The culture of impunity nurtured over the years within the military structure can not be erased by mere rhetoric.
The CPDF calls for the immediate removal of military detachments from civilian communities. At the same time, the CPDF warns the military from repeating the failed sabotage of Cordillera Day activities staged last year in Buneg, Lacub, Abra, wherein spiked nails were clandestinely planted along roads to disrupt participants proceeding to the celebration. Such acts will be met with reprisal from the revolutionary forces, who are ready to defend at all times the lives, ancestral lands, livelihood and resources of the nationally oppressed indigenous peoples.