Mr Earth Philippines 2019 supports petition to stop Kaliwa Dam project
ALBAY, Philippines – In line with the celebration of the World’s Indigenous Peoples Day, 2019 Mr Earth Philippines Robin Canuzo asked Filipinos to sign the petition stopping the Kaliwa Dam Project.
He said the Dumagat-Remontado tribes, whose ancestral lands are in Quezon and Rizal provinces where the Kaliwa Dam Project would be built, needed our help.
For him, signing the petition was an act of solidarity.
“And if we work on this together, it can make a great impact,” Canuzo said.
“Remember it is not only their fight, but it is also ours for we live in one country and what affects them will eventually affect us too,” he added.
Learning about their battle
On June 12, Canuzo joined a tour for a cause in Mount Daraitan in Rizal to learn about the Dumagat-Remontado tribes. The tour discussed the issues the tribes faced, and what we could do to help them.
Organized by EcoExplorations, the Camp for a Cause: Saving Daraitan was a nature appreciation and conservation tour with the said tribes.
It was a two-day activity where participants visited the key tourist spots and toured around the village where they got to see the areas that would be affected by the Kaliwa Dam Project – from public infrastructures, residential areas, business establishments, water sources, and Daraitan River where locals do daily chores.
Members of SIKAP sa Kaunlaran, the tribes livelihood-focused group, showed their humble production area for their non-timber forest products such as guyabano tea and fruit wines, to name a few.
Unfortunately, the plantation where they get fruits would also be flooded if the Kaliwa Dam project is implemented
While members of Samahang Uugit sa Karapatan ng mga Katutubong Dumagat-Remontado sa Lupang Ninuno (SUKATAN-LN), the tribes advocacy-based group, shared with the tour participants their way of life and how the project would disrupt it.
“Planting forest trees and nurturing it is part of our life,” said Octavio Pranada, representative of Indigenous Political Structure of Dumagat-Remontado tribes in Tanay, Rizal.
Pranada explained that before when the Laiban Dam was proposed, they were told not to plant and promised of 1 sack of rice and a P350 monthly stipend.
“However more than 30 years have passed, we have gotten not a grain of rice,” he said.
Clara, the secretary of both groups, added they could not afford to have the forests destroyed. “Look at Badjaos in Manila, where they beg with their child in their arms. We don’t want that,” she said.
“Our income from planting has also helped us send our children to school,” she said.
Learning their culture, identity
But even among their schooled tribe members, they would always go back to their ancestral lands.
“We can stay in the city for one or two months, but not for long,” said Nila Grace Ouano of Indigenous Peoples Mandating Representative in Daraitan.
So instead of pushing us the idea of wealth based on material possessions, she asked the government to respect their culture and help uplift it.
“You think we’re poor? We’re not. Our wealth is our identity, our culture, our simple, sustainable lifestyle,” she said.
Pranado said this was why it pained them knowing all these would be gone, along with their livelihoods, sacred places, traditions, camaraderie, and conviction.
Their conviction is already being tested by projects like these with some tribe members feeling powerless because they do notunderstand their rights in the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title.
“We also expect how fellow tribe members could be used against us. We have our weaknesses too especially when financial promise is put on the table,” said Clara.
After hearing all these, another tour participant couldn’t help but apologize for being selfish. “We (people from Manila) think it’s only our needs that are important.”
She also expressed her admiration for the tribe leaders, especially the women.
With responses like these, they knew there was hope in expressing their sentiments. – Rappler.com
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