Kaliwa Dam: Dumagat leader stands ground vs Duterte threat | Inquirer News

Kaliwa Dam: Dumagat leader stands ground vs Duterte threat

By: - Correspondent / @dtmallarijrINQ
/ 04:56 AM October 30, 2019
Kaliwa Dam: Dumagat leader stands ground vs Duterte threat

RIVER OF LIFE Ramil Astubesa, a Dumagat, takes a dip in Kaliwa River,where a dam will be built at the boundary of Barangay Pagsangahan, General Nakar town, and Barangay Magsaysay, Infanta town inQuezon province. Dumagat communities in the area will be inundated so that water could be supplied to Metro Manila. —RICHARD A. REYES

LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines — An indigenous community leader in Sierra Madre has assailed President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat of using “extraordinary powers” to implement the P18.7-billion Kaliwa Dam project, touted as the solution to the water shortage in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.

“We will not be cowed by any threats or warnings. What we are fighting for and protecting is a matter of life and death for us,” Dumagat leader Marcelino Tena said in a phone interview on Tuesday.


On Monday, the President said he would use all the powers of the presidency for the construction of the Kaliwa Dam project in Quezon and Rizal provinces.

Environmentalists, indigenous groups and local government officials oppose the project.


Tena insisted that Sierra Madre’s indigenous people who would be displaced would not give free, prior and informed consent to the project.

The law requires that proponents of a project that would affect the ancestral land, territories and natural resources of an indigenous community must first secure their consent.

‘Fake consultation’

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has expressed concern over reports of fake consultation with and approval by indigenous communities of the dam project.

In a statement, the CHR urged the government to be “mindful” of its obligation in implementing development projects in areas covering ancestral domains of indigenous peoples in the provinces of Rizal and Quezon.

“While we recognize that there is a legitimate concern on water security in Metro Manila, this should not come at the expense of human rights of affected indigenous communities and their land’s biodiversity,” said the agency’s spokesperson, Jacqueline de Guia.

“Apart from displacement of local communities and the Agta-Dumagat-Remontado population, the commission warns the government of the possible irreversible damage to the biodiversity of the Sierra Madre and the Kaliwa Watershed, which is a declared forest reserve and wildlife sanctuary,” De Guia said.


Once the project is implemented, she said, it would be a “direct violation” of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, as hundreds of species would lose their natural habitat.

The consent process is still going on. Five of six clusters of indigenous communities in Quezon province have already voted against the project.

Challenge to NCIP

The CHR called on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), which oversees the consent process, to ensure that genuine and rights-based processes of securing the approval of affected communities were followed.

It asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which issued an environmental compliance certificate for the Kaliwa Dam project, to see to it that environmental laws and standards in human rights would be respected.

Tena reminded Mr. Duterte that there was a legal process that must be met before any government project could be implemented.

“And as President of the country, you are expected to become an example and model of every Filipino in obeying the law. But with your intransigence and threatening declaration, you are setting a bad example to all,” he said.

Threat nothing new

Tena is part of the Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta/Dumagat-Remontado na Binabaka at Ipinagtatanggol ang Lupaing Ninuno.

Catholic priest Pete Montallana, chair of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, saw “nothing new” in the President’s threat.

In an open letter, the Prelature of Infanta priest said Mr. Duterte had been using his extraordinary powers by placing retired military and police officers in government agencies to pressure the indigenous people and local government officials who listened to those against the dam project.

“Had you respected the process established by law to protect the people and the environment we could have government agencies that really did their job well but your contract with China muddled everything,” Montallana said.

China Engineering Corp. bagged the contract for the P18.7-billion dam project, which the government earlier said would be funded with loans from China.

Communist rebels have vowed to launch attacks to stop the construction of the dam project.

“The CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) calls on the NPA (New People’s Army) to defend the people against Mr. Duterte’s armed minions,” Marco Valbuena, CPP public information officer, said in an online interview on Tuesday.

The NPA is the CPP’s armed wing.

Valbuena condemned Mr. Duterte’s threats “to seize by force the people’s lands and forests.” —WITH A REPORT FROM JHESSET O. ENANO

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TAGS: Dumagat, Kaliwa dam, Marcelino Tena, Rodrigo Duterte
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