Group of scientists denounce ‘railroad’ of Kaliwa Dam talks with IPs in Quezon

FILE PHOTO: Department of Public Works and Highways DPWH Principal Undersecretary Rafael Yabut 3rd L and Tan Qingsheng 2nd R, Chargé d’Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the dam project of Kaliwa in Rizal province, Philippines on June 29, 2021. Advocates for Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) said the government has banned several Dumagat-Remontado tribesmen affected by the planned barrage. (Photo: Rouelle Umali/Xinhua via Getty Images)

A group of scientists have condemned the government’s drift in discussions with indigenous peoples (IPs) affected by the Kaliwa dam project.

Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) said in a January 30 statement that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) had banned several members of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe to participate in discussions on the validation of the memorandum of understanding and the community royalties development program (CRDP).

The organization cited reports that community representatives from Tamala, Maksa, Masanga and the directly affected communities of Yok-yok, Baykuran and Makidata in Quezon were barred from entering the site after failing to get tested for COVID-19. The tribesmen claimed they were not made aware of said requirements prior to the event and have since expressed distrust of antigen testing as they believe the results could be tampered with by staff at the NCIP.

According to the statement, locals’ mistrust was rooted in the history of the Kaliwa Dam Project Railway NCIP not following proper protocols to obtain consent from IPs.

The incident happened amid the continued rise in new COVID cases, with Quezon province still under Alert Level 3.

AGHAM said the NCIP and MWSS should have postponed the consultation given the situation. They called on the government to investigate the dispute to obtain clearance from the intellectual property communities involved.

“We remind NCIP that its primary mandate is to serve the interests of Indigenous peoples, not corporations that seek to encroach on and desecrate ancestral lands. We reiterate our position against the Kaliwa Dam due to its negative environmental consequences and associated human rights violations on the Dumagat-Remontado communities living along the affected areas,” he said.

The group also called on the government to “properly respect environmental laws and laws that protect the environment and indigenous peoples from destructive projects such as the Kaliwa Dam”.

According to STOP Kaliwa Dam (Sectors and Peoples Totally Opposed to the Kaliwa Dam), a network of local and international organizations and institutions, the project will affect the ancestral domains where 5,000 Dumagat-Remontados live.

Additionally, they said the project would destroy the biodiversity and habitat of 126 species across 300 hectares of the Sierra Madre and endanger 100,000 residents downstream with the risk of massive flooding.

The network currently has an ongoing petition calling on the president to stop the Kaliwa Dam project, citing that the project “violates legal process and the Philippine constitution, is destructive to the environment, and goes against the best interests national of the country”.

Pola Rubio is a journalist and photojournalist covering Filipino politics and events. She regularly follows global and local events. The opinions expressed are his own.

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