Tribes vow to support Iloilo natives vs megadam project
ILOILO CITY—Indigenous peoples’ (IP) groups and tribes in various regions and provinces in the country have voiced their support for indigenous peoples’ communities opposed to the construction of an P11.2-billion megadam project in Iloilo.
About 83 participants of the Indigenous Peoples Exchange 2015 issued a manifesto against the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project (JRMP) II.
“We oppose large dams because they will destroy the land, life, livelihood and culture of the indigenous peoples … . The construction of the (JRMP II) disregards the rights of the Tumandok (native) to their ancestral domain and self-determination,” according to the manifesto issued by the group after the four-day conference that ended on May 27.
The conference is held every two years and facilitated by the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. It is aimed at providing an opportunity for indigenous peoples all over the country in sharing their indigenous knowledge, cultures, experiences and struggles for self-determination.
The JRMP II is the second of a two-stage project aimed at the multipurpose use of water of the Jalaur River, one of the major rivers of Panay. It involves the construction of three dams (reservoir, afterbay and catch dams), a 6.6-megawatt hydropower plant and an 81-kilometer high-line canal.
The project is funded by a $203-loan from the South Korean government through its Export-Import Bank’s Economic Cooperation Fund. The counterpart fund from the Philippine government amounted to P2.2 billion.
The JRMP II has split IP communities that will be affected by the project into those against and for the project.
The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and other proponents of the project have said that this would generate about 17,000 jobs during the construction stage and address Iloilo’s potable water supply and problems.
This would also boost agricultural production, according to NIA.
It has assured IP communities affected by the project of relocation, compensation for their farmlands and other social support.
But the IP groups opposing the project said in their manifesto that the project would only displace “close to 17,000 individual Tumandok (IP group in Panay island) members from their lands, without security of relocation.”
Even their right to free, prior and informed consent was gravely violated by the NIA, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the local government of Calinog, Iloilo.
“The Tumandok community members were deceived, bribed, threatened, terrorized and divided to ensure that (their leaders) would enter into an agreement with NIA. This dam is a huge threat to the life, livelihood, culture and indigenous knowledge of the Tumandok people,” they said in their statement.
The NIA has repeatedly assured that the rights of IP have been respected and the process for seeking approval for the project has been followed.
Those opposing the project are less than 10 percent of the affected residents, according to NIA.
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