The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) on Monday, Feb. 20, issued a statement refuting IP groups' and IP rights advocates' claims against the construction of the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project (NCWS-KDP).
"Ang nagbabagang tanong ay kung ang basehan ba sa nagaganap na alay lakad laban sa Kaliwa Dam mula sa lalawigan ng Quezon hanggang Kalakhang Maynila, at ang protesta sa harap ng NCIP sa Ika-20 ng Pebrero 2023, ay nakaatang sa katotohanan? (The burning question is whether the basis for the ongoing ‘Alay Lakad Laban sa Kaliwa Dam' from Quezon province to Metro Manila and the protest in front of the NCIP on Feb. 20, 2023, is based on truth)," said NCIP Calabarzon in a Facebook post.
"Ang sagot ay isang malinaw na walang katotohanan! (The answer is undoubted no!)," it added.
A long and delicate Free Prior and Informed Consent discussion was conducted with the affected IP communities in Tanay, Rizal, and General Nakar, Quezon regarding the proposed dam, said the commission.
These consultations were implemented according to the virtues and customary law of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe, which will be primarily affected by the project, it continued.
RELATED STORY: Kaliwa Dam project to be completed by 2026, MWSS says
NCIP noted that its officials personally visited and reached out to the IP leaders to ensure their involvement in the discussion on the NCWS-KDP.
Also during these meetings, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System explained and answered the queries of the IPs in ways and terms that they could understand, it said.
"Tiniyak din sa oras ng decision-making process na ang pangkatutubong pamamaraan ng mga katutubo ang manaig at masusunod (It was also ensured during the decision-making process that the tribal methods of the natives would prevail and be followed)," NCIP added.
Even though there was no consensus made in the initial meeting, the old IP leaders in the community, or "gemot", were able to provide their consent for the project through a procedure known as "pasurut-surutan."
"Ang NCIP ay nagsilbing saksi at tagatala lamang ng mga kaganapan sa pasurut-surutan. Ang hindi pakikialam ng NCIP sa prosesong ito ay tanda ng paggalang ng ahensiya sa karapatan ng mga katutubo at pagganap sa kanyang mandato at tungkulin (NCIP only served as a witness and recorder of the events in the discussion. NCIP's non-interference in this process is a sign of the agency's respect for the rights of IPs and the fulfillment of its mandate and duties)," it said.
NCIP also debunked claims that NCWS-KDP will cause communities in Yok-yok, Baykuran, and Makid-ata in General Nakar, Quezon submerge in water.
"...naipaliwanag na sa mga katutubo na naninirahan sa mga nasabing lugar na hindi sila malulubog maliban sa mga ilang pana-panahon na pananim na nasa tabing-ilog na nakasama sa mga imbentaryo at mababayaran. Ang kanilang pamayanan ay malayo sa lugar ng pagbaha o inundation area ng Kaliwa Dam at nasa mataas na bahagi sila (It has been explained to the natives living in said areas that they will not be submerged except for some seasonal crops that are on the banks of the river which are included in the inventories and will be paid for. Their community is far from the inundation area of the Kaliwa Dam and they are in the higher part)," the commission explained.
NCIP said that it had also included the IPs residing in these communities in the Validation Team of Land Acquisition and Resettlement Plan to show and assure that they would not be flooded.
"Nilulunod ng kasinungalingan ang mga nagaalay-lakad at nakakapanlumo na ang mga katutubo ay muling nagagamit ng mga kahina-hinala at iba’t-ibang interest groups upang maisulong ang kanilang baluktot na hangarin at mapanlinlang na gawain (Lies are drowning those who march and it is saddening that the natives are once again being used by dubious and various interest groups to further their perverted desires and fraudulent activities)," the commission stated.
IP groups and IP rights advocates who are opposing the NCWS-KDP are conducting a nine-day protest march, dubbed "Alay Lakad Laban sa Kaliwa Dam," which began at General Nakar, Quezon, on Feb. 15 and is expected to end in Malacañang in Manila on Feb. 23.