BAGUIO CITY- March 14th was the International Day of Action for Rivers formerly known as the International Day against Dams and Mines, a yearly global activity that aims to build and strengthen solidarity to protect rivers against dams and destructive projects. It sprung from the common experience of peoples around the world experiencing various human rights violations while fighting against the multi-million projects that will destroy their communities.
The Department of Justice’s proscription petition against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army tags environmental and indigenous peoples rights activists who were at the forefront of resistance against dams and mines. Rodrigo Duterte, eager to deliver to foreign corporations is acting as a wholesaler of indigenous people’s lands where the last frontiers of natural resources exist. Aside from placing activists in physical danger and vilifying them as terrorists, its real aim is to sow fear to communities resisting these destructive projects. Ricardo Mayumi, an opposition leader of the Sta. Clara Quadriver from Ifugao that was shot point blank in the face and died on the spot almost the face two weeks ago, is an example of how Duterte treats anti-dam activists.
Last year, the Department of Energy awarded hundreds of hectares to build hydropower projects to Sta. Clara Corporation, Pan Pacific, Strategic Power (a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation), Hedcore, and SN Aboitiz. Hiding under the pretense that there will be an energy shortage once there’s an influx of business operating in the country, there are eyeing our rivers to produce 315 MW. It is even more disheartening since the government thru its agencies the Department of Natural Resources and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples systematically ensures the sale of ancestral lands by committing violations to Free Prior and Informed Consent.
At the moment, San Lorenzo Ruiz Builders and the local government of Kalinga is hell bent on pushing for the construction of the 52 megawatt Karayan dams along the mighty Chico river. Aside from displacing communities, it will bury an indigenous burial site and will greatly threaten the province’s rice granary. By doing these the government is pushing indigenous communities at risk of displacement, everyday exposure to pollution and serious health hazards leading to sickness and epidemics, poverty and loss of biodiversity such as the cases of Agno and Abra rivers.
It was more than 40 years ago when Igorot communities and the Filipino people united stop the World Bank funded Chico River Dam project, a priority project of then dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Today, the cordillera region is no means safer since the national government maintains its category as a resource base in northern Luzon. Until the government starts to stop corporate mining and nationalize the mining and energy industries for the benefit of the Filipino people, the cycle of poverty and injustice for indigenous peoples will not end. ###
Bestang Dekdeken, secretary general
Landline: 422 9754