IP rights group dares bets to fight big dams
ILOILO CITY, Philippines—Indigenous peoples groups and advocates have challenged presidential candidates to voice their opposition against large-scale dam projects, which they said have dislocated or threatened tribal communities in the country.
“We have yet to hear a presidential candidate speaking against megadams and on defending the rights of indigenous peoples,” Joan Jaime, research and documentation officer of Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, told the Inquirer last week on the sidelines of a national forum on dams and ancestral domains.
The forum was attended by leaders and representatives of indigenous peoples’ groups whose communities host dams or have been identified as sites of proposed dam projects.
Jaime said these projects would dislocate thousands of indigenous peoples, whose farms and communities would be submerged once these are completed.
These tribal communities are in Nueva Vizcaya province (Diduyon Dam project), Rizal and Quezon provinces (New Centennial Water Dam project), Tarlac province (Balog Balog Bam), Bukidnon province (Pulangi V Dam), Iloilo province (Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project II or JRMP II) and Capiz province (Panay River Basin Integrated Development Project).
Proponents of megadam projects have cited the need for improved irrigation systems, generation of hydroelectric power, and domestic and industrial water and flood control to push for the projects.
In Iloilo, the JRMP II seeks to develop and enhance year-round irrigation systems to 32,000 hectares of farmlands, generate hydroelectric power and provide domestic and industrial water supply.
The project involves the construction of three dams (Jalaur reservoir, afterbay and catch dams), a 6.6-megawatt hydropower plant and an 81-kilometer highline canal.
But Jaime said the projects have resulted in the loss of land and livelihood of indigenous peoples’ communities. She said relocation areas provided by the government have not addressed the dislocation because these were far from ancestral lands and farms.
The projects have also disrupted or destroyed cultural practices of the communities, including communal fishing, which is a traditional ritual for several indigenous peoples groups.
John Warner Carag, a biologist and member of Advocates of Science and Technology of the People, said while the Philippine government is pushing the construction of large dams (structures that are more than 15 meters tall, based on international standards), other countries prefer the building of several small dams to service communities.