MANILA, Philippines – Various groups are elevating on World Environment Day their fight against the construction of the New Centennial Water Source Kaliwa Dam project, which they claimed would displace thousands of Indigenous Peoples (IP).
On Wednesday, June 5, the Sectors and Peoples Opposed to Kaliwa Dam (STOP KALIWA DAM) launched their campaign to secure at least 10 million signatures to convince President Rodrigo Duterte to revoke the project's contract.
"[Ginawa namin ito] para maramdaman ng pamahalaan na hindi [kami] pumapayag na ibaon sa utang at marami pa rin ang nagmamahal sa kalikasan, lalong-lalo na ngayon na climate change na," Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance Pete Montalliana said.
(We did this so that the government will feel that we don't want to be buried in debt and that a lot of people still care for the environment, especially now that we are feeling the effects of climate change.)
The group wants to collect at least 10 million signatories within 3 years before sending these out to relevant government agencies. But Montilliana said they could reach their goal earlier as more people feel the effects of environmental degradation.
Talks of resuming the construction of the $211 million Kaliwa Dam were revived when parts of Metro Manila experienced water shortage early this year.
Should the construction still push through, Montalliana said that nature would take over.
"Isang malaking baha, isang malakas na ulan [ang mangyayari], dahil alam namin sa karanasan namin na grabe na ang ulan ngayon. Mangungunang maghihiganti rito ang kalikasan," he added.
(A huge flood, a heavy rain will happen, because we know, based from our experience, that the rains are intense now .... nature will be the first to avenge.)
WATCH: These groups also chant “stop kaliwa dam” | @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/uHwJt4XtLr — Anna Mogato (@AGAMogato) June 5, 2019
Start of a longer campaign
The signature campaign is just the beginning, Freedom from Debt Coalition program coordinator for public services program Rovik Obanil said.
Obanil referred to their group's collaborating with lawmakers to clear up the issue. They also have a separate group of lawyers that are scrutinizing the details of the projects and the contracts, pursuing legal options and cases.
"This (contract) can be renegotiated, this can be revoked. All of those options are on the table," Obanil said. (READ: MWSS: Kaliwa Dam 'done deal,' no to other proposal)
(This is why we are asking for 10 million signature, to pressure our government to do these things... so that they can see that we don't need the project.)
Obanil told Rappler that they hope to file a case by August, which may include the Writ of Kalikasan as the project will affect the provinces of Quezon and Rizal.
Marcelino Tena, who represented the IPs at the campaign launch, told Rappler that the communities that will be affected also started drafting and collecting individual affidavits last week.
Tena explained that the affidavits will contain reports of the wrongdoings that Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples did to pressure the IPs into giving their free, prior and informed consent. – Rappler.com