UTHPP reignites Kalinga’s valiant resistance against large dams

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

For the people of Kalinga, the struggle against large dams and corporate interest did not end with the shelving of the Chico River Basin Development Project (CRBDP) that sought to build four large dams along the river in the 1970s The lessons and gains from that victory against the World Bank-funded and Marcos-backed project remained to this day as Kalinga folk are confronted with new dam applications such as the Upper Tabuk Hydroelectric Power Project (UTHPP).

Much like the dams planned under the CRBDP of Marcos, grave irregularities and disregard of indigenous peoples’ rights marred the proposed UTHPP from the start. The issues hounding the project and the imminent destruction of indigenous peoples’ land and livelihood fuels the sustained campaign of Timpuyog dagiti Mannalon ti Kalinga (TMK) against the project. The group led the protest on October 18 at the provincial office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to reiterate the people’s rejection of the project.

UTHPP Protest
UTHPP PROTEST. The UTHPP is among the people’s issues that TMK resolved to pursue during their 8th General Assembly held on October 18-19 in Tabuk City, which they opened with a protest action in front of the NCIP Provincial Office and the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist. Photo by Rogyn Beyao.

The undeniable warrior pride of the Kalingas showed in the words of Leonardo Dalutag, a leader from Taloctoc, Tanudan, when he spoke at the protest, appealing to his kailian for support

“Daytoy a dam ket rumbeng a maisardeng no saanyo kayat nga agsubli ti panunot ti tattao ti napsamak idi panawen ni Marcos. Dawatenmi kanyayo a saanyo a palubusan daytoy.No kayatyo ti dam, ipanyo iti sabali a disso, saan a ditoy ta solido kami a sumuppiat iti dayta a panggep (You should stop the dam if you don’t want people to remember the events during the time of Marcos. We ask you not to allow this. If you want the dam, bring it to another place, not here because we are one in opposing that objective),” he said.

Dalutag referred to the intense opposition of Kalingas to the construction of the Chico dams and the brutal response of the Marcos dictatorship. [A1] Kalinga tribes present at the protest were aware that he is also reminding everyone that it was the people’s armed resistance that successfully thwarted the Chico River Dams Project.

“Nakitamin ti epekto ti dam idiay Ambuclao, naapektaran dagiti komunidad iti ngato ken baba ti dam isunga supsupiatenmi dayta a proyekto (We have seen the impact of the dam in Ambuclao, it affected the communities upstream and downstream of the dam that is why we are opposing the project),” explained Dalutag.

He added that the government and the private sector should implement projects proposed by indigenous peoples and not force their concept of development in their communities.

“Saan koma a maymaysa a tao ti paggapoanna ti maiproponar a proyekto iti lugarmi a makaapektar kanyami. Kunayo a masilawan kami babaen ti proyekto ngem adda metten ti silawmi, kunada nga adda ti kalsada ngem adda metten ti madama a kalsada (Project proposal that affects our communities should not come from a single person. You said the project would bring electricity, but we already have it. They said roads would be constructed, but we already have roads),” he said.

The proposed UTHPP is a project of DPJ Engineers and Consultancy (DPJ) owned and headed by Engineer Daniel Peckley, Jr. The proponent is eyeing to build the dam at Sitio Sabangan, Barangay Dupag, Tabuk City. The embankment along the Tanudan River will have a height of 35.4 meters with two turbines designed to produce 10 to 17 megawatts. The construction site is within the lands claimed by the Minanga tribe, whose several leaders and members support the project. Under the classification of the International Commission on Large Dams and the World Commission on Dams, structures that which restricts the natural flow of water reaching 15 meters and above are considered large dam.

Divide and Rule

The sudden assertion and eventual recognition of the Minanga tribe as a separate tribal group by the NCIP reek of the classic divide and rule tactics.

DPJ and several members of the Minanga have sought the implementation since 2008. In the same year, Tabuk City invested P2 million for the pre-feasibility study of the UTHPP. In the same period, the Minanga’s supposedly sought the assistance of the proponent to realize the project. The following year, the local government and the NCIP acknowledged the tribe but was eventually revoked the recognition for procedural lapses.

The city council endorsed the project in May 2011 through a resolution noting the supposed benefits that can be derived from the project. Project endorsement from the local government is a requirement for the proponent to secure Development Service Contract with the Department of Energy and Environmental Compliance Certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In 2012, nearly 150 tribal leaders petitioned the NCIP, the DENR, and the Department of Energy to cancel the permits they issued to the project.

The petitioners asked the NCIP to revoke certification for the proponent’s failed compliance to the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) process issued on May 12, 2009. They said that Minanga and Naneng homogenous cultural communities, noting that Minanga is not a distinct subtribe but part and occupies the Naneng ancestral domain. They also urged then DENR Secretary Ramon Paje to cancel the water rights granted to the Kalinga Hydropower, Incorporated, the company established to oversee the construction of UTHPP.

The strong opposition of the affected communities and TMK’s expose of the grave violations in the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process forced the NCIP to revoke the certification in 2014. The bid was again revived in 2017, right after the NCIP again recognized Minanga as an independent sub-tribe. Leaders of the tribe sent a letter to the Sangguniang Panlusod requesting the body to endorse the UTHPP favorably.

Mother Letty
MOTHER LETTY. In this file photo, Mother Leticia Bula-at, known for her great contribution in the Chico Dams Struggle, registered her opposition to the Upper Tabuk Hydro Power Project during a public hearing on July 31, 2017 called by the Tabuk City Council. Photo by Froilan Wanagon

TMK and other affected tribes also filed a letter to the council opposing the project. The opposing position led to the conduct of a public hearing on July 31, 2017.

In the meeting, Chico dam veteran Letticia Bula-at of the Nanong tribe questioned the project and the supposed favorable endorsement from the tribe. According to her, there was no discussion to support or be the proponent of the project at the tribe’s founding assembly on February 2017. She stressed that she should know or at least informed of the matter being the treasurer of the indigenous peoples’ organization (IPO) representing the Minanga tribe.

In a recent interview by Nordis, Bula-at explained that she identifies herself with the Nanong group. However, she was invited by her relatives from the Minanga tribe during the founding assembly hoping they can win her over to their side and support the UTHPP. She was eventually removed from her position when she stood her ground against the project and became its vocal critic within the Minanga IPO leadership.

Also, elders of the different affected tribes, the oldest of which is 90 this year, reiterated their previous stand that Naneng tribe subsumed the Minangas long ago. They argue that Minanga has no right to monopolize the approval of the project, not only for its questionable existence but also for the effects of the project on other tribes.

IPRA violation

Danny Bangibang of TMK and member of the Taloctoc tribe said the proponent and the NCIP did not inform them of the project. According to him, when the NCIP came, it was to tell them about the first consultative meeting where they were informed of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and the FPIC process.

“Iti proseso ti FPIC maududi pay koma sakbay diay panangimpormarda kanyami nga apektado nga umili. Isunga nga violation daydiay ta talaga a nabigla kami (In the FPIC process, they should have first informed us of the project before the assembly. That is a violation because we were surprised),” he said.

Under the NCIP guidelines, large scale projects such as mines and dams require two FPIC process – before the feasibility study and prior to its actual implementation.

Bangibang said their village and other affected tribes were never informed nor involved in the process of studying the viability of the project

The TMK leader also lambasted the proponent Peckley for spreading lies while the FPIC process is underway. He stressed that the guidelines prohibit the direct and indirect actions of project holders during the conduct of FPIC that may influence community decisions.

“Addun ti black [propaganda] ti grupo ni Engr. Peckley ken dagiti buyot na nga iti Taloctoc kano ket adu ti mangayat wenno ti Minanga kano ket kayatda isunga awan ti mabalinan di Taloctoc ken dadduma pay nga indigenous peoples communities. Nalawag a panangallilaw dayta ta mangiwarwarsda ti impormasion nga awan ti kinaagpaysona (Engr. Peckley’s group is spreading lies that many Taloctoc supports the project, and since Minanga wants the project, the Taloctoc cannot do anything. This is pure deception, there is no truth about that),” he said.

Malbong Woman
MALBONG WOMAN. A woman elder from the Malbong tribe telling her reasons why they oppose the UTHPP during the second Community Consultative Assembly last August 16. Photo from Rogyn Beyao

Jose (not his real name) of the Malbong tribe attested to Bangibang’s statement. According to him, the Malbong community is against the dam because they have many relatives downstream.

“Saanmi kayat ti dam adda dagiti relatives ken kakabsatmi nga adda dita baba. Isuda ti malayos no sumaruno nga aldaw. Awan met ti sabali a papananda ta saanda met ngaruden a makasubli idiay ilimi ta awan metten ti sanikuada (We do not want the dam because we have relatives and siblings downstream. They will be the ones flooded in the coming days. They have nowhere else to go since they cannot return to our village because they do not have properties there),” he said.

He added that Malbong members are united, stressing that “isakitmi dagiti kakabsat ken relativesmi, umayda kami pay lang alallilawen, saanmi masapol dayta dam isu met lang nga agbayad kami iti kuryente (we care for our siblings and relative, they want to deceive us. We don’t need the dam, and we will pay for our electricity anyway.”

Personal interest

Cordillera Peoples Alliance-Kalinga chair Juan Dammay said the proponent is just using several individuals in the Minanga to make it appear that the community wants the project. He said that the efforts to push the project and skirt existing laws on indigenous peoples’ consent distrust and shattered tribal unity.

“Ti karayan ket bagi ti umili, saan a rumbeng a pagganansyaan. Daytoy UTHPP ket sarili ni Engr. Peckley a pagganansyaanna, nalawag daytoy a panggep na (The people own the river, it should not be used for profit. This UTHPP is Engr. Peckley’s project to profit. That is his clear intentions,” he said.

According to him, without the dam, communities downstream and lowland Tabuk like Isla, Cabaroan, Sukbot, and San Juan frequently experience flooding. He said that putting up the barrier will further increase the flood vulnerability of the communities and their farms.

“Saan koma a maymaysa a tao ti paggapoanna ti maiproponar a proyekto iti lugarmi a makaapektar kanyami. Kunayo a masilawan kami babaen ti proyekto ngem adda metten ti silawmi, kunada nga adda ti kalsada ngem adda metten ti madama a kalsada (Project proposal that affects our communities should not come from a single person. You said the project would bring electricity, but we already have it. They said roads would be constructed, but we already have roads),” he said. # nordis.net

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