THE Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP) said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) needs to revisit the consent agreement for the Kaliwa Dam project.

Muling ibalik sa community ’yung memorandum of agreement (MoA) negotiation para maintindihan ng community ’yung MoA. Lahat ng ginagawa ng NCIP, hindi pabor sa aming katutubo. Pinapaganda nila ang report, kahit alam nila na maraming kontra sa Kaliwa Dam project. Hindi kami titigil. Lalaban po kami (We urge the NCIP to bring the MoA negotiations back to the community to so we get terms that are clear to the community. Everything the NCIP has done so far has was not agreed upon by the IPs. They make the reports sound favorable to the Kaliwa Dam project, even though they know we are against it. We won’t stop and we will keep fighting back.),” Marcelino S. Tena, president of the Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta-Dumagat-Remontado sa Pagtatanggol at Binabaka and Lupang Ninuno (SAGUIBIN-LN), said during a virtual press conference.

Started in 2019, the Kaliwa Dam is a bulk water supply project which is a component of the New Centennial Water Source program of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

It will be ready for commercial use by 2023 and is expected to provide 600 million liters of water per day to Metro Manila.

The IP groups urged the government to revisit the “flawed” Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) processes of the project.

The FPIC is a prerequisite for projects in IP land.

Mr. Tena said that the NCIP “handpicked” the representative for the negotiations and used the police to shut out opposing views during the hearings on the project.

“The processes done in (our) communities were filled with deception, manipulation, and misinformation. Reports from indigenous communities include incidents of bribery, false promises, creation of fake leaders, and suppression of known opposition among the Dumagat people,” the TFIP said.

“The building of dams in indigenous communities has caused great destruction of ancestral land, resources, and livelihoods. This outweighed the supposed benefits promised by their proponents and builders,” it added.

The organizations also claimed that the NCIP disregarded the safety of indigenous communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, after it barred unvaccinated IPs from joining the negotiations.

Ang sinasabi namin, bakit ngayong nasa Alert Level 3 kami ay patuloy ang NCIP? Alin ba ang mahalaga? Ang MoA o ang kaligtasan naming mga katutubo? (Why is the NCIP going ahead with proceedings while we were at Alert Level 3 prioritizing signing this MoA during an Alert Level 3? What is more important, the MoA or the safety of us IPs?),” Mr. Tena said.

The negotiations and signing of the MoA between the Dumagat indigenous people and the MWSS was held between Jan. 24 and 29 in General Nakar, Quezon.

According to Mr. Tena, more than 20 IP representatives were barred from entering the venue because they were unvaccinated. Mr. Tena said that the Dumagat people should have the right to decide on whether or not they wish to be vaccinated and unvaccinated status should not be used against them when exercising their right to participate in negotiations. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson