By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — For the indigenous peoples (IPs) who are hell-bent on defending their ancestral territories, the fight is far from over as the entry of dams they see as a threat to drown their very existence is continuously coming with funding from foreign companies in collaboration with their government.
During the press conference on Jan. 3, leaders of different IP groups and organizations from the Cordillera Region and other parts of Luzon, Joan Jaime of the Katribu-Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayang Pilipino (Katribu) said the insisting the construction of large dams in rivers within IP territories should stop.
She said based on the experiences of other countries, many communities are already suffering from the ill effects because of dams. According to her, there are around 36, 000 large dams built all over the world and 60 % of the host communities are already suffering from its impacts.
“Hindi na siguro natin kailangang lumayo dahil nakita na natin ang mga karanasan ng Ambuklao, Binga at San Roque at 36 dams sa buong bansa eh nagpapaliwanag na kung bakit maraming mamamayan ang tumututol sa mga dam (We do not have to go far because we can look at the experiences from the Ambuklao, Binga and San Roque and 36 other dams in the whole country where they can explain why many people are opposing dams),” Jaime stressed.
She said the communities experienced flooding, erosions during strong storms and heavy siltation. She said the destruction affecting peoples’ lives and livelihoods is evident especially after disasters and weather disturbances.
Jaime warned that more destructive disaster is now coming to haunt the people with the entry and collusion of the Philippine government with other countries like China.
She said that after the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Philippines, the Chico dam projects were resurrected particularly in Kalinga. They will build the structures along the Chico River, which spans two towns in the Cordillera, allow corporations to tap the river’s potential for power generation and irrigation.
During the reign of former President Ferdinand Marcos, Bontoc and Kalinga tribes strongly opposed the World Bank-funded Chico Mega Dams with petitions, legal actions, and armed struggle. The strong resistance from the communities forced the proponents to abandon the project.
Kalinga woman elder Leticia Bula-at who fought during the martial law years in defending her homeland said many of them were imprisoned, tortured and even killed during the fight against the Chico Mega Dams but these did not dampen their will to continue their struggle.
She said that what they have in mind is that they will not give up their lands and rivers because if they do that, it means they are giving their own death consents.
IP leaders from all over Luzon gathered for a sharing of experiences and exchanges of lessons from their struggles against development aggressions such as large dams among others from January 21-23, 2019 at the Supreme Hotel, Baguio City. The activity was in spearheaded by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. # nordis.net