Indigenous communities protest as Xi, Duterte support Kaliwa Dam

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the Philippines this November, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed on to 29 agreements with China covering among others, loans for infrastructure and joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea for oil and gas.

Indigenous peoples from Quezon and Rizal province trooped to the Chinese Embassy last November 21 to protest the signing of an Php 18.724 B (USD 358.49 M) loan agreement on New Centennial Water Source Kaliwa Dam Project and a commercial contract between Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and China Energy Engineering Group.

Conchita Calzado, local IP leader from Gen. Nakar slammed the Duterte government for signing onto the agreements and neglecting indigenous peoples’ rights.

“Ilang dekada na itong tinututulan [Kaliwa Dam], libo-libong taon na rin namin inaalagaan ang kabundukan [Sierra Madre]. Kung tutuusin, kaming mga katutubo na ang nangangalaga dito, at ito na lamang ang natitira nating likas-yaman”, Calzado said.

(We have been protesting the Kaliwa Dam for decades, we have been taking care of the Sierra Madre mountain rage for thousands of years. The indigenous peoples have been taking care of the environment, why destroy what remains of our natural resources?)

The Kaliwa Dam Project

The project is expected to submerge 2,352 hectares of ancestral domains of the indigenous peoples Agta-Remontado in the towns of Gen. Nakar and Infanta in Quezon Province and Tanay in Rizal province.

About 10,000 families from indigenous and nearby communities will be affected, as well as 37,700 hectares of the Philippines’ remaining forest cover in the South Sierra Madre mountain range.

Several studies have shown the adverse social, economic and environmental impact of constructing the Kaliwa Dam which the MWSS says is necessary to secure water supply for residents in Metro Manila.

Rene Cerilla from Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), a federation of family farmers’ organizations expressed support for the campaign of their indigenous peoples members.

“Ang aming mga kasamang magsasaka at mangingisda, mangangaso at katutubo ay walang pakundangang palalayasin dahil sa pagtatayo ng Kaliwa Dam.”

(Our farmers, fisherfolk, hunter gatherers and indigenous peoples will be displaced without consideration due to the construction of Kaliwa Dam)

“Ang paglubog sa tubig ng mga pamayanan ay katumbas ng paghukay ng libingan ng kabuhayan at ari-arian ng mga pamayanan. Kasamang malilibing ang mga kagalingan ng lugar at magsisilbing ala-ala na lamang ang mga ito,” Cerilla said.

(The imminent flooding of these communities is tantamount to burying these communities in their graves, together with their ancestral homes. They will be condemned to become a wisp of memory)

Philippine sovereignty compromised

Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa (KALIPUNAN) in a statement rejected Duterte’s “independent foreign policy” as a sham. The coalition of social movements of workers, urban poor, farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, women, youth and environmental activists said Duterte’s deals with China compromised Philippine sovereignty.

“The agenda of the masses is to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples, protect the environment, and forward the rights of Filipino fisherfolk and workers. Chinese debt will only serve to benefit the few, impoverish basic sectors and drown future generations in foreign debt ”

“Development can never be achieved with the sale of our country’s sovereignty to foreign powers,” KALIPUNAN said.

Who will stand to benefit?

In the end, indigenous peoples ask who stands to benefit from the Kaliwa Dam project.

“MWSS ang magpapatupad ng proyekto, mga korporasyon ang makikinabang sa tubig na kukunin mula sa aming kambundukang Sierra madre. Walang mangyayaring kaunlaran sa mga katutubo”, Henry Borreo local IP leader from Quezon province said.

(MWSS will be the one to implement the project, corporations will benefit from the water to be sourced from the Sierra Madre mountain range. There will be no ‘development’ for the indigenous peoples)

“Kaming mga katutubo, hindi po kami sagka sa kaunlaran. Subalit matatawag pa bang kaunlaran ito, kung ilulubog ang aming mga komunidad at sisirain ang kalikasan?”

(We do not intend to derail development. However, is this what they call development, when our communities and nature will be destroyed?)

Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA) is a national confederation and movement of indigenous peoples, farmers, fisherfolk, women and youth. For questions and comments, email

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