Cordillera Peoples' Alliance

Center for World Indigenous Studies, circa 1999


The Cordillera Peoples' Alliance (CPA) is a federation of indigenous peoples' organizations in the central mountain region of Northern Luzon, Philippines. It was formally constituted by 27 peoples' organizations during a congress in Bontoc, Mountain Province in June 1984.

The CPA's founding is a crucial step towards uniting the Cordillera indigenous peoples in the defense of their ancestral domain and in their struggle for self-determination.

The CPA's membership today includes human rights and church organizations, sectoral organizations of women, farmers, youth, students, workers and urban poor; rural community organizations and peace pact holders representing several village, clan and tribal groups.

Drawing strength from its experiences during its early years, the CPA continues to pursue its commitment to advance the collective interests and welfare of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera.


The indigenous peoples of the Cordillera are collectively known as Igorots among whom are the ethnolinguistic groups of the Bontok, Kankanaey, Ibaloi, Kalinga, Ifugao, Isneg, Tinnggian, Gaddang, Kalanguya and others.

The Igorots are distinguished from the majority of Filipinos by the fact that their cultures did not undergo Hispanization and did not come under colonial rule until the mid-19th century.

Today, Cordillera communities face a number of problems that they will have to overcome if they are to survive as distinct peoples.

The Cordillera region, which consists of the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Abra and Kalinga-Apayao is one of the country's remaining major resource areas, replete with vast forest, mineral, energy and aquatic resources. Exercising its prerogative to control and dispose of the region's natural wealth, the Philippine state has time and again facilitated the entry and expansion of large corporations that extract the Cordillera's resources without regard for the rights and welfare of the people. This has brought about unprecedented environmental destruction and if it continues at its present rate, the Cordillera may no longer be able to sustain its population beyond the next two generations.

In spite of the fact that the region provides huge revenues derived from expending its natural resources, Cordillera communities continue to experience state neglect. Basic social services, for instance, such as roads, schools, communication facilities and medical services, if at all present in certain areas, are sorely inadequate.

Since the Philippine legal system does not recognize indigenous concepts and customary laws concerning the rights of persons and peoples to land and territory, the Igorots have been vulnerable to dispossession and eviction from areas that they and their predecessors have occupied for generations.

To the Cordillera indigenous peoples, land and ancestral domain are central concerns. For them, land is not only a means of survival—it is the source of their ways of life.

Many of the Cordillera's indigenous production practices and systems for regulating resource use have proven their long-term viability. But these have not been given much regard by development planners. Instead, Cordillera peoples have had to endure discrimination as backward savages who display a propensity for resisting development.

Many indigenous socio-political institutions have proven valuable to the Cordillera peoples in their effort to maintain order and justice in their communities and in their struggle for collective survival and self-empowerment. But these institutions have not been recognized by the Philippine state. Instead, the people have had to bear with inappropriate, ineffective, unjust and undemocratic systems of political representation and local governance.

The Cordillera peoples have tried their own solutions to their problems but their efforts have often been met with military violence. The Cordillera today is among the most heavily militarized regions of the country.

It is in the context of the need for unity in the face of these problems that the Cordillera Peoples' Alliance was organized.


The CPA is committed to advancing the interest and welfare of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera. It seeks to unite the various ethnolinguistic groups and sectors in the region towards the realization of the following agenda:


The CPA affirms that the Cordillera peoples are Filipinos, and that their particular struggle for self-determination, justice and equality is an integral part of the Filipino struggle for national sovereignty, justice and democracy.

In keeping with this affirmation the CPA has affiliated with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), a federation of Filipino peoples' organizations committed to nationalist and democratic goals and the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), a federation of indigenous peoples' organizations in the Philippines. The CPA is also a member of the Phil. Environmental Action Network (PEAN) and the Phil. Alliance for Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).

Believing that the problems of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera are similar to those of other indigenous peoples in the world. the CPA has actively sought to establish linkages with other indigenous peoples' movements and organizations. The CPA is an active member of the United Nations Working Group for Indigenous Populations and is also a member of the Asia Indigenous Peoples' Pact (AIPP), the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) and the International Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Tropical Rainforests.







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