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MOA signatories for Kaliwa Dam ‘bribed’ by gov’t agencies – Dumagat leader

Dumagats emphasized that the memorandum of agreement must be clear to every community that will be affected by the dam construction.

Words by Charleston Jr Chang

Indigenous peoples (IPs) continue to air their opposition on Kaliwa Dam, even after a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the dam construction was eventually signed last January 28.

The signing was done after over 100 Dumagats were summoned for a supposed MOA validation and Community Royalty Development Program (CRDP) draft last January 24. The MOA validation was done amidst high COVID-19 cases in Quezon province, which was placed at the time under COVID-19 Alert Level 3 (READ: Government agencies rush negotiations on Kaliwa Dam construction).

Environmentalists slammed the MOA signing, saying that it was “railroaded”. Meanwhile, Dumagats said that some of the signatories are not even recognized by their community.

A Dumagat revealed that some of the leaders only surfaced when talks of bribery developed.

Hindi tutulong ang mga lider, ang karamihan, at lumitaw lamang ang mga yan nong may usapin na ng suhol mula sa MWSS [Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System],” wrote Marcelino Tena, former president of Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta-Dumagat-Remontado na Binabaka at Ipinagtatanggol ang Lupaing Ninuno (SAGIBIN-LN), in a written interview with the Perspective.

[“The leaders will not help. Most of them surfaced only when there were talks of bribery from the MWSS.”]

Back in 2019, Dumagat leader Conchita Calzado already made complaints that the documents handed to them were written in English, which they were not able to understand.

Until now, Dumagats are still longing for the agencies’ transparency and commitment in helping the affected communities to understand the discussions regarding the dam construction, which will greatly affect their lives. 

Dapat ang lahat ng pag-uusap tungkol sa Kaliwa Dam ay malinaw sa lahat ng miyembro ng Dumagat-Remontado sa bawat komunidad. Kung kaya’t hiniling ng aming grupo na ibaba muna ang draft ng MOA at CRDP formulation sa komunidad sa halip na ituloy ang MOA signing. Subalit hindi ito sinunod ng NCIP [National Commission on Indigenous Peoples] free, prior and informed consent team,” Calzado said.

[“All talks on Kaliwa Dam must be clear to all members of the Dumagat-Remontado from every community. Our group asks that the draft of MOA and CRDP formulation be brought first to the communities instead of pushing through with the MOA signing. But this was not followed by the NCIP free, prior and informed consent team.”]

IP groups added that the NCIP only invited certain leaders that are in favor of the project. Members of the directly affected communities, which included Yokyok, Baykuran, and Makid-ata, were not even allowed to enter the venue to express their sentiments. 

Hindi pinapasok ang mga apiktadong [sic] lugar, ang community ng Yok yok, Baykuran, Makid- ata para walang kumuntra [sic] sa MOA signing. Tumawag ng pulis para hindi makapasok ang 3- apiktado [sic] na pamayana [sic],para hindi makakontra sa MOA signing,” Tena disclosed.

[“Residents from affected places were not allowed to enter the venue – the communities of Yok yok, Baykuran, Makid-ata – so that no one will oppose the MOA signing. Police assistance was requested so that the three affected communities cannot oppose the signing.”]

The same situation also occurred in the discussions between the IPs in Rizal province and government agencies. The agreement with Rizal IPs was eventually signed last December 10, according to the MWSS.

Ang mga dumalo doon ay pili. Kung sino ‘yung pabor sa project, ‘yun ang nakadalo sa MOA signing na hindi dapat ‘yun ginawa sa amin ng NCIP. Alam naman nila na di lang ‘yung kanilang inimbatahan ang IP dahil ‘di naman totoo na bitbit ng dumalo ang kagustuhan ng community,” Rizal Dumagat representative Claire Dullas remarked.

[“The participants were curated. Only those who are in favor of the project are the only ones who were allowed to participate in the MOA signing, which is not what the NCIP should have done to us. They understand that that the ones they invited are not the only IPs, because it is not true that the participants carried the real interests of the community.”]

The Dumagat-Remontado tribes of Quezon and Rizal raised similar issues in an online press conference held by Sectors and Peoples Totally Opposed to Kaliwa Dam (STOP Kaliwa Dam) last February 3.  

Tena explained that in the assembly of FPIC, five out of six clusters in Nakar said no to the dam construction, leaving only one cluster that agreed to proceed with the project. He added that all the decisions and steps made and taken by NCIP for the project have no systematic process at all. 

‘Fake leaders’ succumbing to bribery

IP communities raised issues with the questionable validity of the signatories that the MWSS obtained during the MOA discussions. 

During the press conference held by STOP Kaliwa Dam, residents reiterated that several IP leaders would not help the community protect their own land. Dumagats called to void the CRDP as they claimed that the signatories all came from the IPs that were victims of bribery and corruption.

“Don’t recognize the fake leaders of IPs and IPMR [Indigenous People Mandatory Representative], and change the leader of IPO [Indigenous Peoples Organizations] who is corrupt and succumbing to bribery,” quoted Project Dumagat.

Meanwhile, the MOA between the MWSS and the IP communities also indicates that an P80 million will be given to the affected communities to serve as reparation and compensation for the disruption and disturbance caused by the Kaliwa Dam construction to the communities’ livelihoods, environment, and ancestral lands.

But according to environmental scientist Ruben Guieb, the P80 million compensation is way too low compared to the “true cost” of what the IP communities will lose once the construction of the Kaliwa Dam carries on. Considering all the ecosystem services at stake, climate and disaster risks, as well as mitigation costs, the financial reparation is said to be not enough. 

“If this proposed Kaliwa Dam is now 10 billion pesos, reasonably, the mitigation cost should be 1 to 2 billion pesos for the indigenous tribes. This does not take into account the property and lives that would be lost should the dam break,” Guieb said.

The China-backed Kaliwa Dam project is one of the flagship infrastructure projects of the Duterte Administration’s Build, Build, Build program, which was condemned for being environmentally-destructive, while also posing a threat to the lives of indigenous communities in Sierra Madre (READ: Defending Makidyapat’s land: Dumagats continue fight against Kaliwa Dam project).

The Dumagats continue to hope that the government would heed their calls for a fair treatment and a rightful investigation regarding the MOA.

Wag kunsintihin ang NCIP at MWSS sa maling ginagawa nila, imbestigahang mabuti, at dapat wag kampihan ang mga mapangdahas sa’ming mga pagdedesisyon,” Tena wrote.

[“Do not allow the NCIP and MWSS on their wrong acts, investigate the issue thoroughly, and do not side with those who violently influences our decisions.”]

Tena also strengthened the calls to his fellow IPs to protect and value their ancestral lands. 

Panawagan sa kapwa ko katutubo na wag kayong masilaw sa mga suhol at pangako, at wag sirain ang lupaing ninuno. Dahil ang lupaing ninuno ay panghabang buhay na benipisyo [sic] ang ibibigay hanggang sa saling lahi,” he wrote.

[“I call my fellow IPs to not fall for bribes and promises, and to not destroy our ancestral land, because it will grant lifelong benefits for every generation.”] [P]

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