DAVAO City — Indigenous group KATRIBU Partylist together with environmentalist group PANALIPDAN Southern Mindanao and Tamugan Farmers Association (TAFA) held a protest action as part of its commemoration of the Earth Hour (March 27) and the World Water Day (March 22) at the Ponciano Rotonda fronting Post Office in this city today. They protested against plans to amend the Davao City Watershed Code supposedly to solve power crisis. They voiced out concerns about the joint exploitation of the Tamugan–Panigan Watershed by HEDCOR–Aboitiz and the Davao City Water District.
“We urge the Davao City Council to stand by the watershed code and the principles governing its drafting to preserve our remaining fresh water resources and surrounding land and forests of our city,” said Francis Morales, convener of PANALIPDAN. Last December, Morales said the City Council rejected HEDCOR-Aboitiz’s appeal for a favorable endorsement.
PANALIPDAN cautions that the planned hydropower plants within the Tamugan Panigan watersheds will end up like the Pulangi IV and Agus dams whose power generation decreased by hundred fold due to government neglect, siltation, and the inevitable impact of climate change such as the current dry spell the country is facing.
“It is a “damning” vicious cycle. The governments construct dams that result in rapid siltation and other environmental tragedies. And then what? They build another dam at the expense of our rivers, and meanwhile, the people suffer from inundation, displacement, and exorbitant water and power rates,” said Morales.
Lumads urged to reclaim stewardship to nature
“The Lumads must reclaim its role as guardians and stakeholders of Mother Earth. We must protect the remaining frontiers and resources for our heritage to last, and for the next generation. It is our mandate and our right although these may prove difficult, because we face corporate entities backed by well-oiled institutions and authorities to quell our defiance,” said Diolito Diarog, KATRIBU Coordinator, descendant of the Diarog clan, from Guiangan tribe who have lived within the Mt. Apo.
Diarog said the change in climate wrought by the massive destruction and plunder of our resources has for one, resulted to the severe resource crisis that we are experiencing. “Locally, the water and energy crisis that we have in Mindanao is the result of a cycle resulting from the destruction of our major river systems caused by the siltation, pollution and drilling of our rivers due primarily to dam construction, and mining,” said Diarog.
Call to Save Tamugan Despite Crisis
“We have long been opposing the exploitation of these vital watersheds by these two agencies. HEDCOR’s hydropower plant project is downright destructive and will cause irreversible damages to our ground water recharge zones while DCWD’s surface water development will inevitably lead to the privatization of Davao’s water utility,” said Diarog.
PANALIPDAN also reminded the City council about the committee hearing where the DCWD’s surface water development project seemed to be leaning towards the eventual privatization of the public water utility.
PANALIPDAN together with the TAFA, KATRIBU Partylist, Consumer Alert and other concerned groups will hold protest actions to “promote the genuine and long term solution to the energy and water crisis if any of this is real.”
KATRIBU asserts that despite the “overly sensationalized” energy crisis, the Davao City Watershed Code which protects the watershed from any ‘developmental’ activity and destructive project must be strictly observed.
“With Mindanao under state of calamity, HEDCOR – DCWD has more grounds now to have the watershed code reversed. But we urge the people of Davao, lumads, farmers, fellow recipients of nature’s gift, to protect our rivers and watersheds,” said Diarog.
The Lumad group maintains a guarded viewpoint as to the veracity of the energy crisis especially since the brains behind the declaration are “notorious for politically corrupt and undemocratic policies” in the armed and intelligence forces of the administration.
The groups demanded instead for a long term solution to the El Nino phenomenon as well as to the energy and water crisis such as focusing on reversing the impacts of climate change through sustainable agriculture and banning commercial logging, large scale mining and other environmentally destructive projects.
During the protest action they held at the Freedom Park in Davao, an on-the-spot mural painting by environmental artists highlighted the significance of preserving our water resources and rivers from the adverse impacts of corporate dams, mining, and other developmental projects.