A Catholic bishop is reiterating appeals for people to step up efforts in defending indigenous people’s lands by opposing the Kaliwa Dam project in General Nakar, Quezon, which threatens the lives of tribal tribes in Rizal and Quezon provinces.
MANILA — According to Bontoc-Lagawe Bishop Valentin Dimoc, the ongoing construction of the dam, which is supposed to address future water and even energy shortages, would certainly bring new dangers like mudslides as work advances, especially during extreme weather like typhoons.
Bishop Dimoc, who also heads the Commission on Indigenous Peoples of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), particularly noted that the Kaliwa Dam project threatens the integrity and way of life of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe.
“They need to be protected because their lives are being threatened not only in terms of the project’s effects on the environment but also in their lives and property,” the prelate pointed out.
“It is also about where indigenous people live… Thus, if we want to protect and fight for their rights, we also need to protect and fight for their environment,” he added.
The Dumagat-Remontado is a tribal group whose ancestral lands include where the Government is building access roads towards where the US$236 million Chinese-funded dam, intended to provide Manila with a steady water supply, will be located.
Bishop Dimoc criticized the project for allegedly flouting construction rules as indicated when the Commission on Audit (CoA) flagged the Metropolitan and Sewerage System for going ahead with the project without proof of compliance with environmental requirements and submission of necessary permits.
Aside from having no proof of compliance in the required environmental permits, a coalition of activist groups called the Stop Kaliwa Dam Network (SKDN) have revealed that all the access roads that were constructed around the area were “illegally” constructed because they were located in a protected area covered by the Indigenous People’s Act.
SKDN convener-priest Father Pete Montallana said the construction of access roads alone have destroyed large swathes of forest and disrupted the lives of many indigenous people.
Montallana claimed that the dam is being fast-tracked for selfish gain by some corporations at the expense of the common good.
“We remain confounded by how our Government can confidently say that the Kaliwa Dam and its annexed projects are for the common good. Therefore, they will do everything to fast-track the project,” he stressed. (TRC/Headline PH)