Philippines Facts
Area:    300,000 sq. km.
Capital:    Manila
Total Population:    77,726,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Cordilleras have three of the factors that increase the chances of future rebellion: a history of persistent protest; territorial concentration; and the unstable nature of the Philippine government in the past five years. Factors that could inhibit future rebellion include the country's status as a new democracy coupled with the government's efforts to negotiate settlements with insurgent groups. Another significant factor is how future economic development will be pursued in the Cordillera Administrative Region. Addressing tribal concerns about protecting their lands, culture, and livelihoods will be critical to help ensure peace.

Analytic Summary

The terms Igorots and Cordilleras are used to collectively refer to a number of tribal groups including the Bontoc, Ibaloy, Ifugao, Apayao/Isneg, Kalinga, and Tinggians. The Igorots reside in the mountainous north and central Luzon areas in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). The CAR covers 18,294 sq. km and includes the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Mountain, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Apayao.

Group members speak multiple languages while the country's official language is Filipino, a formal version of Tagalog (LANG = 2). The social customs of the Igorots also differ from the majority Filipino community (CUSTOM = 1). Although the Philippines has a significant minority Muslim population, most residents are Catholics. The Cordilleras follow both traditional beliefs and Christianity (RELIGS1 = 3).

While the Philippines was conquered by the Spanish in the mid-1500s, it was transferred to American colonial rule in 1898 under the Treaty of Paris. Following Japanese occupation during the Second World War, the territory became independent in 1946. Geographic isolation allowed the Igorots to maintain their culture and lifeways with limited outside involvement until the mid-20th century.

Exploitation of the Cordillera Administrative Region's natural resources brought the tribals into conflict with lowland Filipinos and the government. During the 1970s, encroachments by the logging industry coupled with Manila's attempt to build a series of hydroelectric dams (the Chico dams) activated tribal opposition. Along with engaging in protests, some group members joined the Communist Party of the Philippines' military wing, the New People's Army (NPA), which was waging an antistate rebellion (PROT70X = 2; REB75X = 4). The autocratic government of Ferdinand Marcos further alienated the Igorots as counterinsurgency campaigns against the NPA victimized the tribal population.

The 1986 People's Power Revolution led to the overthrow of the Marcos regime and the subsequent elections brought Corazon Aquino to power. President Aquino offered to open negotiations with the country's various rebelling groups. That same year, a faction of tribal NPA members, led by Conrado Balweg, broke away and formed their own organization, the Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CPLA). The CPLA entered into talks with the government and on December 15, 1986, a peace agreement that included greater self-rule was reached (SEPX = 3). The first step toward regional autonomy occurred the next year when the Cordillera Administrative Region was established. Two agencies, the Cordillera Executive Board and the Cordillera Regional Assembly, were charged with the task of preparing the region for autonomous rule.

Plebiscites were held in 1990 and in 1998 in the CAR to determine whether the residents supported the creation of an autonomous region. However, this proposition was widely rejected by both the lowland Filipinos and the highland tribals. In each referendum, only one province supported autonomy. President Estrada terminated the two agencies mandated with helping to implement autonomous rule in 2000. However, the Arroyo administration began incorporation of CPLA soldiers into the Philippine armed forces in 2001.

In recent years, the Igorots have faced significant natural disasters including typhoons, floods, and landslides which have restricted agricultural production, the main economic activity of the tribals. In addition, group members have migrated from rural to urban areas in search of opportunities to earn a livelihood and the Cordilleras have been dispossessed from their ancestral land. The 1995 Mining Act resulted in the displacement of some tribals while others lost their traditional livelihoods through the promotion of mining and hydroelectric projects.

While public policies are in place to improve the group's political and economic status, the Igorots are disadvantaged as a result of historical neglect and/or restrictions (POLDIS03 = 1; ECDIS03 = 1). The 1997 Indigenous Peoples' Right Act led to the creation of a National Commission on Indigenous People. The commission can allocate ancestral lands on a communal basis. However, opposition from business interests has led to limited implementation of the act.

Economic issues including obtaining a greater share of public funds and economic opportunities along with protection of their land are central group concerns. Greater political rights and the promotion of the Igorots' culture and lifeways are also significant factors.

During the past decade, competing conventional organizations and secondarily militant groups have primarily represented Cordillera interests (COHESX9 = 3). These include the CPLA and its political arm, the Cordillera Bodong Administration and the Cordillera People's Alliance, the largest nongovernmental organization in the region. An Igorot faction of the New People's Army is also active and it is alleged to be responsible for the December 1999 execution of the CPLA's leader Conrado Balweg.

There has been little political activism by group members in recent years (PROT01 = 2, PROT02-03 = 1; REB98-01, REB03 = 0). By the mid-1990s, the NPA's activities in the CAR were at a minimum. However, a clash between Philippine armed forces and the NPA did occur in CAR in June 2002.


The Europa Yearbook, Far East and Australasia 1993.

Keesings Record of World Events, 1990-93.

Hyndman, D. & L. Duhaylungsod, "Political Movements and Indigenous Peoples," Fourth World Bulletin, December 1993.

Minorities at Risk, overview compiled by Monty G. Marshall, 07/89.

Lexis-Nexis Library Information 1990-2003

Solmerin, Florante. October 1, 2004. "Stand united on autonomy, CBA asks Cordillera people" The Manila Times.

Tauchmann, Kurt, "Political Integration and Divergence of Normative Traditions: An Example from the Igorots/Philippines," Internationales Asienforum, Vol.15, No.1/2, p.89-98.


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