MANILA, Philippines – Around three hundred Dumagat-Remontado indigenous people began their 9-day march on Wednesday, February 15, from General Nakar, Quezon, to the seat of executive power in Malacañang, Manila.
The indigenous people are urging Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to permanently stop the construction of the China-funded Kaliwa Dam. They are joined by a network of groups of farmers, fisherfolk, residents, and activists.
The ‘alay lakad’ will traverse the municipalities of General Nakar, Real, Famy, Pililia, Teresa, and Antipolo City, Quezon City, and Manila, covering around 150 kilometers. Portions of some of these municipalities are covered in the mega dam project.
Kaliwa Dam is a water source project to be implemented by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), funded by a loan from China.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) disclosed in a budget hearing last October 2022 that the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the dam was on hold because there was still no Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from indigenous peoples (IPs) as required under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997.
“There is no consent from the IPs in the area and therefore, it (ECC) cannot be acted on,” DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said, as quoted in some news reports on the DENR budget hearing.
FPIC is the right of indigenous peoples to give or withhold consent to projects that affect them and their lands.
Why does this matter?
Upon completion, Kaliwa Dam is expected to provide 600 million liters of water a day for Metro Manila and reduce dependence on Angat Dam located in Bulacan province. It seeks to address the frequent water shortage in parts of the capital region.
However, there are social and environmental costs to the project. Some civic groups and environmentalists say the construction of the dam will bring further damage to the Sierra Madre mountain range and displace communities.
In a report by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau, the construction of the project will affect a total of 1,465 households in Barangay Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal province and in Barangays Magsaysay and Pagsangahan in Quezon province.
Affected residents will have to grapple with agricultural losses, changes in livelihood, and access to resources. At least 1,000 households in Daraitan, including IP families, are at risk of flooding in case of dam failure or break, the report says.
According to Conchita Calzado, a Dumagat leader, indigenous people did not give their free, prior and informed consent to the project.
“‘Yung mga lider na pumrima ay hindi ‘yun ‘yung [directly] affected,” Calzado told Rappler in a phone call. “Pinatutunayan ng nagsisipaglakad. Mali ang proseso ng paggawa ng FCIP. Na-monopolyo ang proseso ng FCIP,” Calzado added.
(The leaders who signed are not those who are directly affected by the project. Those who are joining the march know this. The process of getting FCIP was wrong and monopolized.)
The MWSS maintains they properly followed the FPIC process. – Rappler.com
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