November 26, 2022

CPDF: Disasters and tragedies are not about resilience

Is it resilience or is something else entirely? In the face of the harsh conditions continually set against the people of Benguet and the entire Cordillera, is it still a question of their ability to “adjust” or of how government units are establishing better systems to address these conditions?
In one of the yearend reports of the Baguio Midland Courier published on Jan. 2, it talked of disasters, economic sabotage, and that oft-repeated word, resilience. The article’s main strength is that it touched grass and shed light on actual persons’ experiences. Families so suddenly losing homes, or worse loved ones, because of strong typhoons. Vegetable farmers frustrated over livelihoods they have invested on with practically everything they got. And so forth.
But here is where the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF) makes its case. Do we dare call this hardiness? Is it all a matter of one person or one family’s ability to bounce back, one tragedy after another? Lastly, can we really set aside the issue of accountability?
We are no stranger to calamities. Earthquakes, super typhoons, flashfloods, and landslides have collectively claimed more Igorot lives than we could possibly tally. Toughness of will and spirit can only do so much when we recall these tragedies. What we need, instead, is better infrastructures to reduce the risks. Extensive education campaign on disaster preparedness should matter over the expectation that families will eventually move on after losing a child or after seeing their paypayew (rice fields) destroyed. Protecting and nurturing natural safeguards (such as watershed forests against flashfloods) should be given utmost importance.
And yet, it seems it is not important enough, if one observes the actions and decisions of those entrusted to defend the natural resources of the Cordillera.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) itself, for example, would rather see the i-Apayao live with the risk of getting swept away by flashfloods. It violated the process of getting free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from the i-Apayao just to railroad the construction of seven dams along the Apayao-Abulug River and two more along the Nabuagan River.
In its obstinacy, it refuses to heed the opposition of the Cordillera people, advocates for indigenous rights, and environmental activists. Once again, the question begs to be asked: Are the human tragedies resulting from natural calamities still to be borne with resilience?
This is not a dirty word; it could even be a fortifying and hopeful word. But context is important, which in this case is the reality of the oppression and exploitation against the Filipino masses.
Here in the Cordillera, it is reflected in the criminal neglect by the government and its disregard for our right to self-determination. Even vegetable smuggling (or more accurately called agricultural neoliberalization) is government policy.
Clarity of language helps shine a light on context. The people are repeatedly the victims of these disasters but they are not taking these sitting down. When facing such systemic difficulties, one does more than bounce back. One fights and perseveres.
The masses aspire for social change, embrace radical ideas and participate in collective action towards that end. Bouncing back again and again, especially from practically preventable tragedies, is dehumanizing. Rubbers bounce, humans take up revolutionary struggle. — SIMON NAOGSAN, CPDF spokesman

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