The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) summoned over 100 Dumagats for the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the IPs and the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS), concerning the construction of Kaliwa Dam.
The discussions on MOA began last January 24 and will continue until January 29.
“Inimbitahan ang mahigit 100 na katutubong Dumagat mula sa mga pamayanan ng Gen. Nakar, Quezon sa isang linggong MOA validation at Community Royalty Development Program (CRDP), kahit na ang Quezon ay kasalukuyang nasa Alert Level 3 ayon sa IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force],” Sectors and Peoples Totally Opposed to Kaliwa Dam (STOP Kaliwa Dam) says.
[“Over 100 Dumagats from communities in Gen. Nakar, Quezon were invited for a one-week MOA validation and CDRP, even though Quezon is currently under Alert Level 3.”]
All attendees were required to undergo antigen tests, but the Dumagats were resistant because it is against their sacred culture. Because of this, some IPs were not able to go inside the venue of the MOA signing.
“Pinakuha sila ng antigen test dahil ito raw ay protocol ng LGU. Ngunit, ang pilit na pagkuha ng antigen test ay labag sa kanilang sagradong kultura,” wrote Project Dumagat, a group that extends assistance to Dumagat-Aetas.
[“They were required to undergo antigen tests because it is a protocol of the LGU. However, the test violates their sacred culture.”]
The group adds that Dumagats who were barred from entering the venue were not even given food and resting areas. As such, the Dumagats had no choice but to sleep in a nearby parish.
Meanwhile, the affected communities say that the contents of the MOA must be comprehensively explained to them, because most IPs still do not fully understand the agreement. They also expressed that the MOA should not be rushed, and that they must not be forced into signing.
“Huwag kaming pilitin pirmahan ang MOA, at huwag kaming pangunahan sa pagdedesisyon bilang mga direktang apektadong komunidad,” quoted STOP Kaliwa Dam, a network of organizations opposing the Kaliwa Dam construction.
[“Do not force us to sign the MOA, and do not force us to make decisions because we are the directly affected communities.”]
Dumagats released a statement regarding the MOA, and requested that the sentiments of all IPs be confirmed before the MOA is signed. They say that some signatories were bribed into giving their consent.
“All they ask is that the corrupt and fake leaders of Dumagat-Remontados be not recognized, for NCIP and MWSS to be held accountable for their safety against COVID, and for the MOA signing to not be rushed,” Project Dumagat wrote.
A massive threat
Progressive and environmental groups have long opposed the Kaliwa Dam construction, because of its threats both to the environment and the rights of IPs (READ: Defending Makidyapat’s land: Dumagats continue fight against Kaliwa Dam project).
Kaliwa Dam will submerge about 12,000 hectares of forest ecosystems in Sierra Madre, threatening plant and animal species facing endangerment or extinction.
“Ang pagkasira ng kalikasan ay hindi lamang ang katutubo ang maaapektuhan, bagkus ay ang malawak na mamamayan,” said an IP in a video from Project Dumagat.
[“Environmental destruction will not only affect IPs, but a wider range of residents.”]
While Kaliwa Dam is said to answer the increasing water demands of residents, scientists have pointed out that the Philippines is an archipelagic country, and that the government can “utilize desalination plants” and “rain harvesting technology”, among other projects that are not as environmentally-destructive as a massive dam.
The Dumagats vowed that they will continue to stand strong against the Kaliwa Dam construction, which would violate the supposed sacredness of Sierra Madre.
“Kami po ay hindi titigil, hindi susuko na ipaglaban ang katotohanan at karapatan ng malawak na mamamayan. Ito po ay hindi amin lamang ang pakinabang, kundi’y ito po ay sa maraming mamamayan,” the Dumagat added.
[“We will not stop, we will not give up in fighting for the truth and the rights of a wide range of residents. This is not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of numerous people.”]
STOP Kaliwa Dam asks the public to stand with the Dumagats. The group emphasizes that the fight against the dam construction is far from over.
“Mariing kinukondena ng STOP Kaliwa Dam Network ang pagmamadali sa prosesong free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) at ang ang ‘di pagkilala sa karapatan, kalusugan at kaligtasan ng mga Dumagat/Remontado ng Quezon,” STOP Kaliwa Dam wrote.
[“STOP Kaliwa Dam Network strongly condemns the rushed process of FPIC, and the government’s refusal to recognize the rights, health, and safety of the Dumagat-Remontados of Quezon.”] [P]
Photo from Project Dumagat