Mishandling of Kaliwa Dam consultation hit
MANILA, Philippines — Leaders of indigenous groups whose ancestral lands would be affected by the P18.7-billion Kaliwa Dam project slammed the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for their alleged violations in the process of obtaining the indigenous peoples’ (IPs) free prior and informed consent (FPIC).
The grievances of the leaders of the Agta-Dumagat-Remontado tribes from the provinces of Rizal and Quezon spilled during a high-level case conference initiated by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Monday.
The discussion, which was also attended by representatives of national and local government units and agencies, was among the first activities with the official creation of an interagency monitoring forum led by the CHR to oversee and probe reports of violations of human rights and indigenous rights surrounding the controversial project.
Tribal leaders denounced the supposed irregularities in the public hearings and consultations, decrying that the NCIP appeared to work for the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the project’s main proponent.
Representatives from the NCIP were a no-show at the conference, despite an invitation extended by the CHR.
“The objections raised by indigenous peoples were wasted, because the field reports of the FPIC were all lies,” said Conchita Calzado, a tribal leader from General Nakar, Quezon province.
She decried the violations in the guidelines that were stipulated in the process, such as meeting the required number of households for the consent gathering.
Calzado said even nonindigenous peoples were reportedly made to sign in on the document.
The leaders also slammed the false information surrounding the project, such as the reported success of the public hearings and even the declared number of households that would be affected by the dam’s construction.
“Instead of the NCIP protecting us, we have already lost hope with them,” said Marcelino Tena, a Dumagat leader also from General Nakar.
Tena and several other representatives also condemned the Red-tagging done by government forces to those who would voice out their opposition for the project.
CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana said such reports were the reason behind the formation of the interagency monitoring group.
Pimentel-Gana said that once all the reports and concerns had been gathered, the CHR would come up with recommendations, which would be brought to proper government agencies.
“We monitored [the case] and we decided that this is really a grave concern for human rights,” she said in an interview. “They are trying to actually create a scenario where the right to water of people in Metro Manila [are pitted] against the rights of the IPs to their ancestral domain, to their right to self-determination.”
Pimentel-Gana, the focal commissioner on indigenous peoples’ rights, reminded concerned government agencies to follow the process already laid down by the law.
“[They] just have to follow that to the letter and sincerely do it,” she said. “How can the IPs have informed consent if they don’t know the issue at all?”
Even in its planning stage, the multibillion-peso project has been hounded by criticism from indigenous communities and environmental groups for the anticipated devastating impact of the dam to the environment and to ancestral lands and cultural identity of indigenous groups.
Critics have also scored it for being onerous, as it is among the Duterte administration’s big-ticket projects that would be completed with loans from Beijing.
Amid stiff resistance, the Environmental Management Bureau issued an environmental compliance certificate for the project in October.
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