By JOHN PAUL NACION
MANILA – An environmental group is urging the Filipino people to elect leaders who will respect the rights of the indigenous peoples as the Philippine government continues to railroad the construction of the controversial Kaliwa Dam.
“We challenge all opposition and independent electoral candidates to speak out and commit to stopping this patently illegal and onerous Kaliwa Dam project as one of their priority actions should they win in the elections,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
Concerned government agencies such as the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) are reportedly proceeding with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement, which would need the signature of 116 Dumagat leaders and community members as part of the free, prior informed consent (FPIC) processes.
Read: On Dumagat Day, tribes vow continuing resistance to Kaliwa dam project
Read: ‘Damn the dams’ | Indigenous peoples say no to destructive energy projects
This is amid Quezon province being on Alert Level 3 due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases. This alert level restricts public gatherings such as the scheduled MOA validation process and a week-long workshop with tribal members in General Nakar from January 24-29.
According to Marcelino Tena of Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta-Dumagat-Remontado sa Pagtatanggol at Binabaka and Lupang Ninuno (SAGUIBIN-LN), more than 20 indigenous peoples were denied access to the location because they were unvaccinated.
The controversial Kaliwa Dam has been criticized as it would submerge ancestral lands in the provinces of Quezon and Rizal.
Last year, the House Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples unanimously agreed to issue a cease-and-desist order to the MWSS and its Chinese contractor, China Energy Engineering Corporation Limited (CEECL), and the Commission on Audit reprimanded the MWSS for completing the P12.2-billion dam project without demonstrating compliance with environmental requirements or submitting required documents. The MWSS failed to provide evidence that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ preconditions for an environmental compliance certificate issued on October 11, 2019, were met.
“The voting public must demand our future leaders to respect the indigenous Dumagat’s rights and protect the Kaliwa watershed to avert disasters downstream,” Dulce said. (JJE,RVO)