“Do not drive us away from our ancestral land”
Asked what he wanted the government to do for the indigenous peoples of Tanay, a 17-year-old magbuburlit (lumber-carrier) said, ”Leave us to live safely and do not create any hardships for us.”
“Life in Sta. Ines is hard. Sky- rocketing prices of prime commodities in the cities even double in the countryside. Our investigation revealed that a tin of sardines costs P18-P20 ($0.389 to $0.43 at the current exchange rate of $1=P46.19), rice is P110-120 ($2.38 to $2.597) per salop (bag) or P50-P55 ($1.08 to $1.19) per kilo; a gin-bottle of kerosene for lighting is P30 ($0.649),” Mallari said.
Daily wage is low at P100 ($2.16) for cleaning a kaingin for the well-off families who do not go to the mountain slope to take off the weeds. A lumber carrier gets only P6 ($0.129) per board-foot of lumber he carries from the woods, two to four hours by foot, to the village, or a measly P120 ($2.597) for two pieces of 10-foot lumber.
A rice trader usually takes the lumber and in exchange gives one salop of rice to the peasant Dumagat. For a board foot, the financier takes P1 ($0.02), P3 ($0.06) for the chainsaw operator, P1 ($0.02) for gasoline, and P1 ($0.02) for the helper.
Vegetable traders usually come in summer to get what the Dumagat would sell from their produce. The prices they give for the produce, however is too low, according to a young woman. Root crops only cost P4-P8 ($0.08 to $0.17) per kilo; bananas, P0.50 –P1 ($0.01 to $0.02) a piece; ginger P6 ($0.129) per kilo. Charcoal is only P65-80 ($1.407 to $1.73) per sack. Sometimes it goes down to P50 ($1.08).
“However simple our life may be, our demand is for (the government) not to drive us away from our ancestral land,” Ka Lope said.
A Source of Life
He said, “The squatters the government drives away form the cities are better off because they have a province to go home to. While for us, this is where we come from. We have nowhere to go to.”
Government plans to relocate the families in San Isiro, a village adjacent to Sta. Ines. That is beside the point, however, because the sources of livelihood of the people are in the places the reservoir will submerge, according to Ka Lope.
“Money is easily spent, but the trees and rivers will forever be the source of the people’s livelihood,” Nanay Aning, 65, told visiting KATRIBU leaders, as she echoed the popular sentiment against leaving the place to give way to the dam reservoir.
The Laiban Dam project, resurrected from the Marcos dam projects, did not get the free, prior and informed consent of the Dumagat people. It met fierce protests during the martial law years. It has been peddled to many foreign investors including the Chinese ZTE.
Former Congressman Danding Cojuangco’s San Miguel Corporation offered to finance the construction and reportedly gained headway with Arroyo’s order to finish pending dam projects before her term ends.
Presidential aspirant Gilbert Teodoro is a Cojuangco scion and Cojuangco is a close ally of President Arroyo. (Bulatlat.com)