Leader of indigenous community in Sierra Madre, Marcelino Tena, opposed President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning to use “extraordinary powers” for the enforcement of Kaliwa Dam project amounting to P18.7 billion, which, he believes, is the solution to Metro Manila’s water shortage.
“We will not be cowed by any threats or warnings. What we are fighting for and protecting is a matter of life and death for us,” Tena said in an interview.
Duterte on Monday said he would make use of his all of his ‘extraordinary powers’ as the president to materialize the Kaliwa Dam project.
While he firmly believes in this, environmentalists, indigenous communities, and local government officials do not favor the project.
Tena maintained that indigenous people in Sierra Madre who would be relocated would not give their consent to the implementation of the project.
As the law requires, a consent must be secured first before implementing a project that would affect the ancestral land, territories and natural resources of an indigenous community.
Fabricated consent from indigenous communities
Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Right (CHR) advised the government to be “mindful” of its duty with regards to the implementation of projects that cover ancestral areas of indigenous communities in Quezon and Rizal.
The agency also expressed its concern after reports of fabricated consultation with and consent by indigenous people of the Kaliwa Dam project was brought to their attention.
“While we recognize that there is a legitimate concern on water security in Metro Manila, this should not come at the expense of human rights of affected indigenous communities and their land’s biodiversity,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.
De Guia also added that aside from the relocation of local communities and the Agta-Dumagat-Remontado people, passage of this project threatens possible irreversible damage to Sierra Madre’s biodiversity and the Kaliwa Watershed, which is a declared forest reserve and wildlife sanctuary.
Moreover, implementation of the Kaliwa Dam project would be a “direct violation” of the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, since this would cause hundreds of wildlife to lose their habitat.
Challenge for NCIP
So far, the consent process, which the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) organized, is still in progress. Five out of six indigenous groups in Quezon province have already voted against it.
The CHR order the NCIP to follow the true and rights-based processes of securing consent from affected communities.
Also, it called the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which released an environmental compliance certificate for the Kaliwa Dam project, to make sure that they would adhere to the environmental laws and standards in human rights.
On a different note, Tena reminded the President that they should comply with a legal process first before implementing the project.
“And as President of the country, you are expected to become an example and model of every Filipino in obeying the law. But with your intransigence and threatening declaration, you are setting a bad example to all,” Tena said.