Philippines: Tumandok people march against Jalaur Dam
ILOILO CITY, PHILIPPINES - Indigenous peoples under TUMANDUK (Indigenous Farmers in Defense of Land and Life) organization held a picket Thursday morning in front of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) office in Barangay Tacas, Jaro, Iloilo City to oppose the construction of the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase II (JRMP2), als known as the Jalaur mega dam project.
The march was held in time with the presentation of counter arguments against the writ of Kalikasan filed last year against the JRMP2 construction.
Numbering around 60 individuals, the indigenous peoples' group was joined by members of Panay and Guimaras-wide peasant alliance Pamanggas, women's group Gabriela, and urban poor organization Kadamay, all under the multi-sectoral alliance group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) Panay chapter. The rallyists paid no heed to the scorching heat and five-hour walk to the NIA office in Iloilo City.
"We do not need the dam. What will be left for us when our lands are drowned? Where will we live? Where would we plant our crops? We will lose our land and with it our livelihood, culture and identity as a people," said Reynaldo Giganto, council member of TUMANDUK.
The Tumandok people are the indigenous peoples in Panay and Iloilo island in the Visayas. Most of the Tumandok are subsistent land-tillers, and still hunt and gather in the forested areas in the eastern provinces of the Visayas islands.
According to Giganto, the project does not favor the interests of the indigenous peoples. "The offered 17,000 jobs are just temporary, low-paying, odd jobs. We do not have the knowledge and education to get us high-paying work in that dam. After construction, we will be left with nothing but a drowned earth."
Marevic Aguirre, chairperson of TUMANDUK added that NIA has consistently hid and distorted information from the Tumandok on how the dam will affect the indigenous communities.
"In the Free and Prior Informed Consent process and in any other meetings, they (NIA) never mentioned the inundation of the Tumandok villages near their project site. Yet in the feasibility study report in November 2011 to the Korean Export-Import Bank which finances this project, it indicated the submerging of the indigenous communities. This important information is kept from us on purpose, perhaps to fool the indigenous peoples into agreeing with the project. But we know better," Aguirre said.
The Supreme Court issued a writ of Kalikasan against the Jalaur Dam project, based on the case filed by Cong. Augusto Syjuco, Jr last year.
The writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy that may be sought to deal with environmental issues that threatens life, health, and property.
Respondents in the petition were the officials from NIA, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Department for the Environment and Natural Resources, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Public Works and Highways, and Sen. Frank Drilon, among others.
"Aquino's government agencies are ganging up to pursue this project, but they will face strong and growing opposition not just from us Tumandok people, but from the Ilonggo and Filipino people as well," Giganto claimed.
The hearing will resume on March 14 in a debate exercise of both sides, in time with the commemoration of the International Day of Action for Rivers.
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