Environmental Defenders Unite with Dumagat-Remontados Against Kaliwa Dam

May 23, 2024

In celebration of Dumagat Day, the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines Inc. (CEC) expresses its solidarity with the Dumagat-Remontado indigenous people. Dumagat Day is celebrated annually to commemorate the solidarity with the indigenous peoples in defending the environment and strengthening the promotion of their right to ancestral lands and self-determination [2]. Known as virtuous people, and have high value of importance in their culture, Dumagat-Remontados’ lives are connected to the land and nature which molded their identity, sustains, and nourishes them with knowledge in nature and farming[3]. 

 

Environmental defenders themselves, the Dumagat-Remontado have been protecting their ancestral domain from destructive projects such as the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project (NCWSP) that will displace more than thousands of indigenous peoples and submerge their ancestral domains. Last February 2023, they marched together with farmers, fisherfolks, and environmental advocates for nine days (150 km) from General Nakar, Quezon province to Malacañang palace to call for Marcos Jr to stop the Kaliwa Dam construction [1] permanently. However, the Marcos Jr. administration didn’t face nor reply to their plight. It can be recalled that the Laiban Dam which is also within Dumagat-Remontado traditional ancestral domain was part of the Manila Water Project III under the Marcos Sr. administration. 

 

Kaliwa Dam is situated in the Sierra Madre mountain range, one of our country’s last ecological frontiers, serving as a buffer zone, protecting millions of Filipinos in Luzon during typhoons. This flagship project is part of the former president Duterte’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program which is currently continued by Marcos Jr.’s Build Better More program. The mega-dam construction aims to supply water of 600 million liters a day in urban communities of Metro Manila [4]. However, it is expected to submerge 9,700 hectares of a watershed and affect an estimated number of 1,465 families in the areas of Rizal and Quezon. It also includes the Upper Marikina Watershed and the Watershed Forest Reserve, both conservation sites and protected areas under Presidential Proclamation No. 1636 [5]. 

 

Funded from a Chinese loan, this billion-peso mega-dam construction project will not only submerge the homes of the indigenous peoples in Rizal and Quezon provinces but will also affect the people’s livelihood, access to food and clean water, especially affecting the downstream communities who rely on Kaliwa River and the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve [6]. 

 

Just last year, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) announced the expected completion of the mega-dam construction in 2026 with its operational phase in the following years. We should strengthen our call and stand in stronger solidarity with the Dumagat-Remontado and fellow environmental defenders to protect one of our nation’s last ecological frontiers to uphold our constitutionally mandated right to a healthful and balanced ecology. 

 

Amidst the climate crisis, we should recognize the importance of our indigenous people as experts in protecting the environment and living in harmony with the environment. We call on government agencies to heed the plight of the Filipinos and leave no one behind – consider the environment and the future generations from impending harm brought by destructive projects such as large dams. 

 

Development in the guise of profit-oriented projects is a manifestation of rotten governance motivated by a hunger for power that won’t bring us, especially the marginalized communities, to a better societal and environmental situation. Moreso, we should amplify the calls of our fellow Filipinos, and the indigenous peoples and unite for a greater environmental cause.

 

Sigaw ng taumbayan, sagipin ang kalikasan!

 

#DumagatDay2024

#DefendTheDefenders

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[1] Gozum, I. (2023, November 1). Dumagat-Remontados Begin 9-day march to protest Kaliwa Dam Construction. RAPPLER. https://www.rappler.com/nation/dumagat-remontados-begin-march-protest-kaliwa-dam-construction/

[2] Contributors, B. (2019, October 30). On Dumagat Day, tribes vow continuing resistance to Kaliwa Dam Project. https://www.bulatlat.com/2019/10/30/on-dumagat-day-tribes-vow-continuing-resistance-to-kaliwa-dam-project/ 

[3] Vritimes. (2024, May 20). Opinion: Climate injustice and the sustainability paradox of Kaliwa Dam. Thailand Business News. https://www.thailand-business-news.com/thailand-prnews/opinion-climate-injustice-and-the-sustainability-paradox-of-kaliwa-dam 

[4] Romero, M. B. (n.d.). Kaliwa Dam far from completed. Daily Tribune. https://tribune.net.ph/2024/03/21/kaliwa-dam-far-from-completed#:~:text=Kaliwa%20Dam%20is%20a%2060,600%20million%20liters%20a%20day. 

[5]  INQUIRER.net. (2023b, February 25). Marcos snub dismays marchers vs Kaliwa Dam Project. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1734874/marcos-snub-dismays-marchers-vs-kaliwa-dam-project 

[6] Cabico, G. K. (2023a, February 15). Dumagat-Remontados start nine-day march to palace vs Kaliwa Dam. Philstar.com. https://www.philstar.com/headlines/climate-and-environment/2023/02/15/2245208/dumagat-remontados-start-nine-day-march-palace-vs-kaliwa-dam 

Photo: https://www.veritasph.net/sierra-madre-mountain-range-malaking-tulong-laban-sa-global-warming/