“Sisirain ng dam ang aming mga buhay. Sa aming lupain kami kumukuha ng aming makakain. Ito ang aming kabuhayan. Ang kanilang sapilitang pag-angkin sa aming mga lupain ay kanila na ring pag-angkin sa aming mga buhay [It will destroy our lives. Our land is where we get our food. It is our livelihood. They are not only taking our lands, they are also taking our lives,” according to the speaker for AGTA, a Dumagat organization based in General Nakar.
This is in response to the statement made by President Duterte on Monday that he will not hesitate to use force to construct the Kaliwa Dam, a Php 18.7 Billion project that will be loaned from China. According to Duterte, he will use the “extraordinary powers” of the presidency, citing “outright police power” to continue construction of the mega dam.
“Kaming mga katutubo ay may lehitimong karapatan sa aming lupaing ninuno. Imbes na ang presidente at ang gobyerno ang mangalaga sa aming mga karapatan, sila pa mismo ang nangunguna sa paglabag ng mga ito [We have a right to our ancestral domains. Instead of protecting our rights, the president and the government are the first to violate them],” said Henry Borreo of the indigenous peoples organization, Pigtaanan ni Dumaget Remontado di General Nakar Quezon.
On October 22, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued an Environment Compliance Certificate or ECC to the Kaliwa Dam project. This is despite the protests of indigenous peoples in Quezon and Rizal who will be uprooted from their ancestral lands.
The Dumagat and Remontado also fear that the Kaliwa Dam will worsen climate crisis in the Philippines.
“Ramdam na natin ang pagbabago ng panahon. Ang tag-ulan ay nagiging tag-init at ang tag-init ay nagiging tag-ulan. Kapag itinayo ang Kaliwa Dam at sinira ang libu-libong mga puno sa Sierra Madre, hindi lamang kaming mga katutubo ang maapektuhan, kung ‘di milyun-milyong mga Pilipino [We can already feel the effects of climate change. Seasons have been interchanging. If they construct the dam, they will kill thousands of trees in Sierra Madre, and this will affect not only us Dumagat and Remontado but millions and millions of Filipinos],” said Meleng Rutuqeio, kaksaan [captain] of AGTA.
During the interview on Monday, Duterte stated that violations on environment and indigenous rights are not enough reasons to stop the project. He stressed that his primary concern is the welfare of the people affected by water shortage. The Dumagat and Remontado, however, expressed their doubts that the construction of the Kaliwa Dam will benefit ordinary Filipinos.
“Maraming alternatibong paraan para maibsan ang krisis sa tubig sa Metro Manila. Imbes na mabaon tayo sa bilyun-bilyong utang sa Tsina para sa pagpapagawa ng Kaliwa Dam, bakit hindi natin ayusin ang mga dam katulad ng Wawa dam at ng Umiray dam [There are many alternatives that can alleviate water shortage in Metro Manila. Instead of loaning billions from China, why don’t the government turn their attention to existing dams like the Wawa dam and Umiray dam],” asked Borreo.
“Ang Kaliwa Dam ay hindi para sa mga mahihirap katulad namin. Ito ay para patabain ang mga bulsa ng mga negosyante [The Kaliwa Dam is not for the poor like us. Its purpose is to fatten the pockets of businessmen], Rutuqeio added.
The youth of Dumagat and Remontado also appeal to the president that the government treat them as humans.
“Kami ay tao rin. Hindi kami ibang lahi. Kami ay parte ng mga taong pinangakuan ng pagbabago ng pangulo. Nanawagan kami sa kanya bilang tao na ‘wag gumamit ng dahas. Sapagkat ang paggagamitan nýo ng dahas ay mga kababaihan at mga kabataan, mga matatanda at mga sanggol [We are humans. We are not a different race. We are a part of the people that the president made a promise with. We ask of him as a human being to not use force against us for they will harm women, elders, and children],” said a Dumagat youth leader.
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