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CHR concerned over alleged ‘faked’ approval, consultation from IPs to push Kaliwa Dam project

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expressed concern over alleged faked consultation and approval from affected indigenous communities to push through the construction of Kaliwa Dam in Quezon

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) is necessary to activities that affect indigenous peoples’ (IPs) ancestral lands, territories and natural resources under IPs’ right to self-determination.

“The right to free consent implies equally the right to dissent,” De Guia said in a statement on Monday.

“If indigenous peoples are clearly opposed to a particular project, their decision should be respected and they should continue to benefit in the same way as other people from State benefits, development plans and services,” she added.

De Guia said CHR recognizes the water security problems in Metro Manila, but she said this should not come at the expense of human rights of affected IP communities and their land’s biodiversity.

She added that the looming "forced displacements" in ancestral domains could affect the communal, interpersonal ties, social interactions, and the cultural and spiritual attachments of IPs to their land.

“Apart from displacement of local communities and the Agta-Dumagat-Remontado population, the Commission warns the government of the possible irreversible damage to the biodiversity of the Sierra Madre and the Kaliwa Watershed, which is a declared forest reserve and wildlife sanctuary,” she said.

“If executed, this is a direct violation of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act as more than hundreds of species will lose their natural habitat,” she added.

The CHR called on the Department of Natural Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to ensure that the project complies with environmental laws and human rights standards.

The controversial Kaliwa Dam project has already obtained an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the DENR. But CHR reminded it can be cancelled if they fail to comply with the conditions.

CHR also urged the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to check the authenticity of the FPIC and ensure rights-based processes in securing it.

“The Commission supports the proposal to conduct a congressional hearing on the dam project to air the grievances of the Agta-Dumagat-Remontado communities,” it added.

CHR is open for dialogues between the government and the communities to come up with viable mitigation and rehabilitation plans addressing the possible negative human rights impacts of the project, De Guia said. — Joviland Rita/BM, GMA News