Gran Cordillera the largest and highest mountain range in the Philippines. It comprises about one-sixth of the entire island of Luzon, with a total area of 18,130 km2. The Philippines are an archipelago made up of 7,100 islands situated between the Sea of China to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the East. Its main islands are Luzon (where Manila, the capital, is located), Mindanao and Palawan.
The population of Cordillera is 1.6 million, about 2% of the total Philippine population. Cordillera is one of the richest regions in terms of natural resources. It is the largest source of resources in the Philippines: 11% of the total area is made up of fields used for cultivating rice, pig farms and step lands; 60% of the vegetables consumed by the country are produced in this area. Mining is also very strong there; eight large mining companies, almost all foreign, operate in this region. Around 80% of the production of gold in the Philippines comes from Cordillera. Another important aspect relating to potential resources is that Cordillera harbors northern Luzon’s main rivers. If these were used correctly they could offer at least 5 million kilowatts, 56% of the country’s energy needs.
The Law for the rights of indigenous peoples came into force in 1997 and it gave the Cordillera People a decisive influence on the establishment of foreign mining companies. This law states that the property above ground is considered community property rather than personal and, therefore, coincides more with the form that the Igorots (also like it is known by the Cordillera People) consider ownership of the land.
Even though each of the seven ethnic groups in Cordillera, and Cordillera People has its own language, they share a past common culture that includes the Ilocano language. As an indigenous people, the Cordillera People are different from the majority of the Philippines, in their perception of land ownership. The Igorots view the land as a source of life, as an integral part of their cultural identity, for which reason, for them, the earth is sacred and cannot be bought or sold.