Locals renew campaign vs. Centennial ‘mega-dam’ to save Sierra Madre
Gains more support in time for PNoy’s last SONA
Local communities and civil society groups are set to launch a campaign to stop the construction of the New Centennial Water Source Project under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Program of the Aquino administration.
“This ‘mega-dam’ is not for progress when it benefits their interests, not ours,” says Conchita Calzado in Filipino.
Calzado is the adviser of SAGIBIN, among the people’s organizations with SUKATAN and MASIDAMA, representing Dumagat-Remontado tribes to be displaced by the massive project that includes Kaliwa Dam in Kaliwa River, Barangay Pagsangahan in General Nakar, Quezon, and Laiban Dam also to be mounted in Kaliwa River, Barangay Laiban in Tanay, Rizal.
She says the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) approved the ‘mega-dam’ in May 2014 despite strong opposition by indigenous peoples communities in Quezon and Rizal.
“This violates the law,” adds Calzado. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) requires their Free, Prior and Informed Consent to any development within ancestral domains.
The groups attended the two-day summit organized by the Save the Sierra Madre Network Alliance (SSMNA) led by Fr. Pete Montallana with several organizations, including Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), PAKISAMA, and Haribon Foundation.
Held from July 8 to 9 at the Balay Kalinaw in the University of the Philippines, the event also convened resource persons to discuss legal, environmental, and economic contentions against the Centennial ‘mega-dam’, among them, Dr. Steve Godilano, lawyer Ipat Luna, FDC’s Rovik Obanil, Haribon’s Nikki Almazan, and Manja Bayang, assistant to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNSR-IP).
Atty. Bayang gave emphasis on Principle 9 of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly of February 1998, which declares that “States have a special obligation to protect against the displacement of indigenous peoples, minorities, and groups with special ties to the land.”
“IPs have the right to self-determination, and to live according to their culture and traditions,” says Bayang. “Resettling them as a result of the project goes against that.”
The NEDA reportedly gave its proponent, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) the go-signal even without an Environmental Compliance Certificate even as the project is situated in a protected area and forest reserve. “This disregards environmental policies in the country,” says Luna.
Obanil adds that fault lines across the location are another cause for alarm, which puts the project’s sustainability into question. Citing the World Commission on Dams during the summit, he underscored that 60 percent of the world’s 227 largest rivers are significantly fragmented by dams, diversions and canals, making them vulnerable to degradation.
“Our water resources are already precious and limited. These dams hardly meet the demand for water supply,” says Obanil. “The country needs more trees and forests to ensure availability and access for future generations.”
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