Scientist group blasts ‘railroading’ of Kaliwa Dam talks with IPs in Quezon

Department of Public Works and Highways DPWH Senior Undersecretary Rafael Yabut 3rd L and Tan Qingsheng 2nd R, charge d'affaires of the Chinese embassy in the Philippines, attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kaliwa Dam project in Rizal Province, the Philippines on June 29, 2021. Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) claimed that the government barred several members of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe affected by the dam project.. TO GO WITH:
FILE PHOTO: Department of Public Works and Highways DPWH Senior Undersecretary Rafael Yabut 3rd L and Tan Qingsheng 2nd R, charge d'affaires of the Chinese embassy in the Philippines, attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kaliwa Dam project in Rizal Province, the Philippines on June 29, 2021. Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) claimed that the government barred several members of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe affected by the dam project. (Photo: Rouelle Umali/Xinhua via Getty Images)

A group of scientists condemned the government’s railroading of discussions with indigenous people (IPs) affected by the Kaliwa Dam project.

Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) said in a statement on Jan 30 that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) barred several members of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe from participating in discussions on the memorandum of agreement validation and community royalty development program (CRDP).

The organization cited reports that representatives from the communities of Tamala, Maksa, Masanga, and directly affected communities of Yok-yok, Baykuran, and Makidata in Quezon were not allowed to enter the venue after they failed to get tested for COVID-19. The tribe members claimed that they were not informed of the said requirements prior to the event, and has since expressed their distrust of the antigen testing as they believe the results might be tampered with by NCIP personnel.

According to the statement, the locals’ distrust was rooted in the NCIP’s history of railroading the Kaliwa Dam project without following proper protocols in obtaining consent from the IPs.

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

AGHAM expressed that NCIP and MWSS should have postponed the consultation given the situation. They called on the government to investigate the conflict in securing permission from affected IP communities.

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

The group also called on the government to “properly follow 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 Kaliwa Dam), a network of local and international organizations and institutions, the project will affect the ancestral domains where 5,000 Dumagat-Remontados are situated.

Moreover, they said that the project will destroy the biodiversity and habitat of 126 species in 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 the president to stop the Kaliwa Dam Project, citing that the project “violates legal processes and the Philippine constitution, is destructive to the environment, and is against the country's national interest.”

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. The views expressed are her own.

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