The News Lens
By: Nick Aspinwall
A delegation of Taiwanese indigenous peoples recently traveled to the Philippines, where they joined in the growing indigenous opposition to a China-funded irrigation project.
Election season is in full throttle in the Philippines, and Tabuk, the capital of the mountainous northern province of Kalinga, has fully embraced the tarpaulin-dotted fervor enveloping the archipelago at large as local and parliamentary candidates brave the brutal heat in their quests for votes. This year, electoral madness served as the backdrop to Cordillera Day, an annual celebration held on April 24 by the local Igorot, a catch-all term encompassing the handful of indigenous tribes which make up about two-thirds of Kalinga’s population.
Cordillera, a region consisting of Kalinga and five neighboring provinces, is known for its sprawling and lush mountain vistas dotted with tracts of farmland from which many of the region’s residents make a living. It is also known for a culture of fierce indigenous-led opposition to efforts by outsiders to develop the land – and as of late, Tabuk has become a hub for the fight against the China-funded Chico River pump irrigation project. Residents of Tabuk, neighboring Pinukpuk, and surrounding villages fear the project will disrupt their ways of life and say they were not properly consulted before a controversial loan agreement was inked by the Chinese and Philippine governments.
Taiwan’s indigenous population understands the bad blood towards Beijing. In January, 31 indigenous representatives signed an open letter to Chinese leader Xi Jinping decrying his Jan. 2 speech on Taiwan, in which he called unification between China and Taiwan “inevitable.” At this year’s Cordillera Day, mutual enmity towards the Chinese government became common ground for the Igorot attendees, who traveled to Tabuk from throughout the region, and a delegation of Taiwanese indigenous peoples visiting on a trip organized by the Hunter School, founded in 2005 by Paiwan writer and hunter Ahronglong Sakinu to educate young people about Paiwan culture. [FULL STORY]