Climate and Environment

Talks with Dumagats on Kaliwa Dam MOA 'railroaded', project critics say

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Talks with Dumagats on Kaliwa Dam MOA 'railroaded', project critics say
People who have lived beside the river for generations use fishing rods to catch fish to eat.
Philstar.com/EC Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2:49 p.m.) — Groups opposed to the Kaliwa Dam project said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System railroaded negotiations with indigenous communities whose land would be affected by the project.

According to the STOP Kaliwa Dam Network, leaders from Dumagat communities in General Nakar in Quezon province were invited to attend a discussion on memorandum of agreement validation and community royalty development program (CRDP) from January 24 to 29. 

Over a hundred Dumagats attended the discussion in two different venues, while some participated remotely. Quezon province is currently under Alert Level 3.

Conchita Calzado, a Dumagat leader, said the unvaccinated were not allowed to physically attend the event. 

"Kung concerned pala sila na magka-COVID kami ay dapat hindi na nila ituloy ang asembilya. Hindi rin kami magkaintindihan sa mga pinag-uusapan dahil magkakahiwalay ang mga tao at hindi maayos ang signal. Talagang kinokontrol nila kung sino lang ang magsasalita," Calzado was quoted as saying.

(If they were concerned about us getting COVID, then they should not have pushed through with the assembly. We couldn't understand each other anyway because we were far apart and others had poor mobile signal. They were really controlling who would get to speak)

'Surprise signing'

The STOP Kaliwa Dam Network also said the invitation letter sent to select community leaders indicated that only MOA validation and CRDP drafting would be conducted. 

"But upon arrival, the MOA signing is already being brought up—without a period for validation of the MOA and the completed CRDP with the communities involved," the group said. 

"The leaders asserted that the CRDP must be anchored on the community’s ancestral domain sustainable development and protection plan (ADSDPP) and along with the MOA, must be done with the entire Dumagat community," it added.

The STOP Kaliwa Dam Network called on the NCIP to postpone the negotiations if they are genuinely concerned about the community's health, and to listen to indigenous peoples' demands. 

MWSS Administrator Leonor Cleofas told Philstar.com that the event was cleared with the local pandemic task force and that there were safety measures in place.

Those who tested positive in antigen tests were not allowed to enter the venue and were quarantined by the local government.

Cleofas also said the agenda of the assembly was MOA validation. "No signing yet," she said in Filipino

Call for probe 

Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, meanwhile, called for an investigation into the gathering organized by the MWSS and the NCIP. 

“This last-minute railroading of the Kaliwa Dam memorandum of agreement for community consent is a hallmark of the Duterte regime’s pro-China, pro-big business fiesta while we have been suffering the COVID pandemic,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

According a post on MWSS' website, the memorandum of agreement with the indigenous peoples of Rizal province who will be affected by the project was already signed on December 10.

In its 2020 audit report, the Commission on Audit said the MWSS proceeded with the implementation of the P12.2-billion dam project without proper documentation. In response, the MWSS said the compliance with environmental requirements is a “continuous process.”

In June 2021, the House Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples agreed to issue a resolution to cease and desist any activities in the ancestral domains of Dumagat communities until the Free, Prior and Informed Consent process is finalized.

At the hearing, Jojo Dorado, the project manager of Kaliwa Dam, said "no physical activity will be done on the site unless we secure the necessary permits and clearances."

But work on the access road leading to Kaliwa Dam is believed to have started even in 2019.

NewsXIn the abundance of water

Candidates urged to speak up about dam

The dam, which is funded through a loan from China, is expected to add 600 million liters per day to the water supply of Metro Manila, which is dependent on Angat Dam in Bulacan.

Communities in Rizal and Quezon will have to relocate once the project is completed. The area where the dam will be built, in the forest landscape of Sierra Madre mountain range, is also home to threatened flora and fauna.

Kalikasan’ Dulce called on candidates in the May polls to make a stand on the implementation of the project.

"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," Dulce said.

"The voting public must demand our future leaders to respect the indigenous Dumagat's rights and protect the Kaliwa Watershed to avert disasters downstream,” he added. — with a report from BusinessWorld




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