Cease and Revoke the Destructive Kaliwa Dam Project!
A STATEMENT FROM THE UGNAYANG PANG-AGHAMTAO, INC. (UGAT)
UGAT calls for the cessation and revocation of the destructive Kaliwa Dam Project, which tramples on the Indigenous Peoples rights and ultimately undermining national water security.
As anthropologists whose discipline is premised upon the importance of respecting the dignity, culture, and voice of communities both indigenous and non-indigenous; recognizing the inseparability of the welfare of humans and the environment; and resisting discourses that define 'progress' and 'development' in simplistic, self-serving terms, we have noted with grave concern how various dam projects in the country have been proposed and implemented against the interests and will of those most affected by them.
We saw this in the proposed Chico Dam project of the 1970s, which threatened to flood and devastate the ancestral domains of Cordillera peoples. They resisted fiercely and stopped the construction. Some, however, like Macli-ing Dulag, did so at the expense of their lives.
We saw this scenario repeated in the Pantabangan Dam in the early 1970s, which displaced an entire town with 13,000 people, seven villages, and 8,100 hectares of land of which 4,000 were residential; in the San Roque Dam in Pangasinan, built in the 1990s, which submerged 4,000 hectares of Ibaloi and Bugkalot ancestral domains and physically displaced 600-741 families; and similarly in the Pulangi IV hydroelectric plant, which submerged 1,400 hectares of agricultural lands and displaced four barangays in the municipality of Maramag, Bukidnon. Many of the displaced families were plunged further into poverty.
Meanwhile, the Tumanduk of Capiz currently face threats to their lives, livelihoods and cultural heritage as a result of the P11.2 B Jalaur River Multipurpose Project (JRMP) Phase II, designed to harness hydropower and supply irrigation in the province of Iloilo, and will be the largest water reservoir to be built outside Luzon. The Jalaur mega dam project would displace at least 17,000 Panay Bukidnon and is expected to cause flooding and other water-related problems to about 1.2 million residents along the Jalaur River Basin.
We in UGAT see the same disregard for people and the flora and fauna of the Sierra Madre Mountain again today in the Kaliwa Dam project in General Nakar and Infanta, Quezon extending into Rizal Province. Despite the vigorous opposition of the indigenous Dumagat and Remontado communities to their attempted relocation to accommodate the submerging of 203 hectares of their biodiverse, carbon-absorbing forest home, the government continues to push the Dam construction. Experts have raised legal, financial and ecological danger signals, including the loan from the government of the People's Republic of China that is funding 85 per cent of the PhP 12.2 billion construction, but their warnings go unheeded.
To be clear, we are not opposed to all dam projects. We recognize water as a public good; indeed our discipline is acutely sensitive to the ways in which access to water - or lack thereof - structures the lives of many Filipinos, including those living in urban poor communities.
However, this cannot be done in ways that ignore, even dismiss, the right of Indigenous Peoples to be involved in decision-making based on their free prior and informed consent affecting their lifeworlds and livelihoods. This cannot be done in ways that destroy the environment and ultimately undermine the goal of water security. Nor can this be done in ways that are inimical to our national economic interest. No less than the spirit and letter of our laws demand this accountability.
Moreover, UGAT recently co-organized a webinar on the Kaliwa Dam project with scientists and experts, where we have learned that aside from the government ignoring the findings of the project’s Social Impact Assessment, there are workable and cheaper solutions to furnishing Metro Manila household’s water supply needs. These include drawing on Laguna de Bay through policy changes establishing large-scale water purification plants, repairing massive leaks in existing piping systems, dredging heavily silted rivers, and rehabilitating existing dams.
We, therefore, as the national organization of anthropologists in the Philippines, and in solidarity with the Dumagat-Remontado of Quezon and Rizal as well as with their numerous civil society supporters, call on the government to revoke the Kaliwa Dam Project and immediately stop its construction.
We call on the government to explore with experts, including the indigenous people themselves, for sustainable and acceptable alternatives.
We call on the government to respect the existing laws governing Indigenous Cultural Communities / Indigenous Peoples and uphold their bundle of rights.
Finally, we call on our fellow Filipinos to support their fellow citizens, the Dumagat-Remontados of the Sierra Madre, in resisting the destruction of their environment and their way of life while also to conserve and protect the natural heritage of the Philippines.
We, as anthropologists of the Filipino people, are ready to pursue these aims with the government, the private sector, civil society, and the Dumagat-Remontado peoples of the Sierra Madre.
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Institute of Philippine Culture, et al. (2021). “Voices of Science in the Kaliwa Dam Controversy”, a webinar, bit.ly/replay-28January2021UGAT, 28 January.
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