Scientists and IP groups claim that Government’s Dam Projects will submerge ancestral lands and displace communities

| Written by CSWCD

The UP CSWCD Research and Extension for Development Office (REDO) successfully held a public forum on the New Centennial Water Source Project or the Kaliwa, Kanan, Laiban Dam Projects and its impacts on ancestral domains and indigenous peoples (IPs). The forum entitled “Kaliwa’t Kanang DAM(Nasyon)” was held last September 10, 2019, 1:00 to 5:00pm at the Bulwagang Tandang Sora, College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD). This was organized in partnership with the UP Diliman Gender Office (UP DGO), CSWCD Student Council, KATRIBU UP Diliman, Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan sa Pilipinas (KATRIBU), Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP), and BAI Indigenous Women’s Network (BAI), and the Network Opposed to the New Centennial Water Source Project (NO to NCWSP). The public forum was attended by some 300 individuals from various IP communities, non-government organizations, academic and research institutions, students, faculty, church workers, and members of the press. 

The public forum was attended by some 300 individuals from various IP communities, non-government organizations, academic and research institutions, students, faculty, church workers, and members of the press.

The primary issues that the forum tackled are the impacts of large dams in communities and the IPs struggle for the attainment of genuine rights to ancestral lands, self-determination and liberation. In the first three years of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, IPs face relentless and worsening development aggression, forcing them out of their communities and causing destruction to their ancestral lands. Duterte’s 10-point Economic Agenda and Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 set the neoliberal policy of Public-Private Partnership and Build, Build, Build program in motion, where public services are privatized and made profitable for big multinational corporations (MNCs). Part of this so-called development programs are the various mega dam and energy projects to be built on loans from Official Development Aid (ODA), particularly from China. The New Centennial Water Source Project or the Kaliwa, Kanan, and Laiban Dams in Rizal and Quezon is part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s infrastructure projects. Leaders and resource speakers during the forum claims that this mega-dam project will bring imminent destruction and submergence of communities and ancestral territories and will dislocate the Dumagat from the mountains of Sierra Madre.

Ms. Kakay Tolentino, a Dumagat and currently the Coordinator of BAI Indigenous Women’s Network and Spokesperson of KATRIBU, opened the forum with a short opening remarks, setting the tone and objectives of the activity, which is to forge and strengthen solidarity between students, the academe, and indigenous peoples and communities. She said “May loan na 18.5 Billion ang Pilipinas sa Tsina (para sa Kaliwa, Kanan Laiban Dam).’Di lang ito sentimo, at di namin kayang bilanging mga katutubo ang halaga. Napakabigat ang dating sa amin. Mabigat ang loan kung saan di lang kaming mga katutubo ang magdadala, kundi tayong lahat na Pilipino. Maliit lamang na bilang ang katutubong direktang apektado, kaya’t ito ang dahilan kung bakit andito tayo ngayon–para maipagsama natin ang ating pagsusuri mula sa iba-ibang aspeto; pagsusuri ano ba ang epekto sa kalikasan na ‘di lang pag mamay-ari ng mga katutubong dumagat kundi bahagi ng patrimonya ng Pilipinas.” [“The Philippines loaned PhP18.5 billion from China (for the Kaliwa, Kanan, Laiban Dam). This is not just a dime, and the huge amount seems uncountable for us. This is such a heavy burden for all Filipinos. In fact, the huge loan will not only be shouldered by the Indigenous Peoples but by the whole Filipino nation. The Indigenous Peoples who will be directly affected by the dam project may be small in number, which is why we are here today–so that we can assess the different aspects together and see its environmental impacts. The environment does not only belong to Dumagat but also part of the Philippines’ national patrimony.”]

Ms. Kakay Tolentino, a Dumagat and currently the Coordinator of BAI Indigenous Women’s Network and Spokesperson of KATRIBU.

The invited resource speaker, Prof. Vito Hernandez, who serves as the Public Information Officer of the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), provided an overview of the Dam Project and briefly discussed its environmental and socio-economic impacts. Prof. Hernandez pointed out that “Ang paggawa ng dam ay hindi lang issue ng public utilities o water crisis, kundi issue ng kalikasan, kabuhayan, paninirahan, at kultura ng more than 45,000 people.” [“The dam project is not just about public utilities or water crisis. It is also an issue of environment, livelihood, shelter, and culture of more than 45,000 people.”]

Prof. Vito Hernandez, Public Information Officer of the
Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM).

Mr. Tyrone Beyer, former UP CSWCD student council member and current Policy Advocacy Officer of the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights discussed the effects of large dam projects to IPs and communities in which he deemed the importance of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). The concept of FPIC is adopted in the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA) as a way to protect indigenous peoples’ rights and interests. Mr. Beyer stated, “Kailangan ng Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) sa pagpapatayo ng dam. Ito ang pahintulot ng mga katutubo kapag may proyektong gagawing sa kanilang lugar. Pansinin natin, iyang mga dam na naitayo at pinaplano ay hindi prior ang konsultasyon. Napapansin lang ng mga katutubo na may proyekto kapag may galaw na sa lupain nila. Kailangang ‘prior’ ang pagbigay ng pahintulot–plano pa lang kailangang kunin mo na ang consent. Saka lang nila (gobyerno) gagawin (ang FPIC) kapag pinag-uusapan na ang construction, which is mali. Dapat wala ring pagbibigay ng suhol para pumayag agad ang katutubong mamayan. Bawal yan sa batas at prinsipyo ng FPIC. Yung ‘informed’ hindi buo ang information na ibinibigay sa mga katutubo, ang sasabihin lang sa kanila ay ang benefits. Militarized din ang karamihan sa komunidad kung saan may mga development projects na gagawin.” [“Any activity or project to be carried out in indigenous communities require Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). We noticed that the dams that were built and planned to be built in indigenous communities did not go through consultative processes. Many times, indigenous peoples are unaware that there are projects being built in their communities, and FPIC is only carried out once indigenous peoples question the activities being done in their territories. FPIC process must start during or even before the planning stage of the project, not when the actual construction of structures is already starting. The process must be free in the sense that no force/coercion and bribes should be allowed in the whole process. ‘Informed’ involves complete transparency and honesty. Details about the project including its implementors and how it is funded should be disclosed to the community members. Only then can the indigenous community come up with a decision whether to grant consent to the project or not. Most of the communities/areas where projects will be built are militarized. A scenario like that can hardly be called ‘free’.”]

Mr. Tyrone Beyer, former UP CSWCD student council member and current Policy Advocacy Officer of the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.

Ms. Wilma Quirrez and two other Dumagats shared their experiences and their struggle to defend Sierra Madre. Ms. Quirrez, Chairperson of Dumagat Sierra Madre added “Kahit wala pang Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) ay sinisimulan nang itayo ang tirahan ng MWSS sa dalawang ektaryang lupaing ninuno. Hindi na rin kami makalapit sa lugar upang makapanguha ng talangka at iba pang pagkain nang hindi nagpapaalam sa militar. Hindi pa man nakapag-comply ang MWSS (sa FPIC) para sa proyekto ay tahasan na nilang nilalabag ang aming karapatang pagpapasya sa aming lupang ninuno at karapatang pantao.” [“The MWSS Office is already being built on a two hectare ancestral land even without a Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Now, we cannot enter the area, which is part of our ancestral land, to gather small crabs and other food without getting prior permission from the military. The MWSS, who has yet to accomplish their FPIC, is already outrightly violating our rights to self-determination and human rights.”]. She claims that despite the growing protests from the IPs and the public, these destructive large dam projects are already being implemented through divide and conquer tactics, and directly neglect and violate IP and Human Rights.

Ms. Wilma Quirrez, Chairperson of Dumagat Sierra Madre.

Assistant Professor John Erwin S. Bañez, Director of the UP CSWCD Research and Extension for Development Office (REDO), shared his perspective on the importance of bridging the academe and communities for a people-centered research and development. He started off on the assumption that there is a gap between the academe and communities. He discussed how the research process and the researcher should be grounded. “Maging sa simula, sa proseso pa lang ng pagtukoy ng kung ano ang itatanong, kailangan ay may pinagbabatayan ito sa sitwasyon ng komunidad. Kaya ang research question ay pwedeng mabago. Kaya mahalaga rin ang immersion.” [“From the beginning (of the research process), identifying the research question should be grounded on the community’s situation. The research question may change over time. This is why immersion is important.”]

Assistant Professor John Erwin S. Bañez, Director of the UP CSWCD Research and Extension for Development Office (REDO).

Ms. Cindy Cruz-Cabrera, UP DGO Gender and Development Officer summarized the discussion and shared a brief response to all the inputs during the forum. “‘Kaliwa’t Kanang DAM(Nasyon)’ presented the narratives of different stakeholders who have witnessed and experienced marginalization, human rights violations, militarization, and destruction of ancestral lands. Through this public forum, REDO has provided all of us with this invaluable opportunity to hear and learn firsthand about issues and problems that are not included in the mainstream discussion and public conversation.”

Ms. Cindy Cruz-Cabrera, UP DGO Gender and Development Officer.

The forum ended with a call for unity and a solidarity photo supporting the calls to #StopKaliwaKananLaibanDams, #StopThePlunderOnAncestralLands, and #UpholdIPRights.

#StopKaliwaKananLaibanDams, #StopThePlunderOnAncestralLands, and #UpholdIPRights