STATEMENT| Water is for the people

Mar. 14, 2017

* Statement of KATRIBU on the International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Large Dams

In commemoration of the International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Large Dams this March 14, Katribu Kalipunan ng Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KATRIBU) extends its warm greetings of solidarity to all communities, organizations, and advocates who are defending our rivers and water resources from destructive profiteering schemes and are struggling against all destructive projects attacking the people’s inherent right to water.

For us indigenous people, water resources like rivers play a crucial part in our communities’ survival and are integral to our culture and identity. No one can own these resources exclusively and therefore everyone has the inherent right to water. Treating water like a commodity and profiting from something that is free, runs counter to how we live. No corporation or individual should have a malicious monopoly on something that is fundamental to people’s lives.

Structures like dams represent this wanton profiteering that big businesses are advocating. Since time immemorial, the construction of dams only led to our people’s misery. As of this date, 39,000 dams were constructed all over the world, displacing almost 80 million people who are living off from the rivers these dams have ravaged. 65% of all known rivers have dams blocking their water flow to the ocean, significantly disrupting not just the ecological balance near these bodies of water, but also the lives of the people who are depending on them.

In the Philippines, indigenous communities suffered severely because of these dams. In the 1950s, the Ambuclao and Binga Dam in Benguet submerged 650 hectares of farm lands and displaced a 300-strong Ibaloi community. The dam is currently owned by SN Aboitiz Corporation, one of the few giant firms monopolizing the power sector of the Philippines.

The Pantabangan Dam, constructed in the ‘70s, sunk 7 communities, affecting 13,000 indigenous peoples and farmers and covering 8,100 hectares worth of land. The money used for this project was loaned from the World Bank. The Pulangi Dams constructed since the 1980s, and its planned expansion will sink 40,000 hectares of land in North Cotabato and Bukidnon. It will affect more than 20 barangays with 10,000 indigenous families and 6,000 settlers.

The San Roque Multi-Purpose Dam, built during the Ramos administration, affected the lives of 4,400 farmers in Pangasinan and 20,000 indigenous peoples living along the Agno River in Itogon, Benguet. It is owned by San Roque Power Corporation, which is comprised of foreign corporations like Marubeni (42% stake); Sithe Energies (50%); and Kansai Electric (7.5%). The Casecnan dam, which has adversely affected the Bugkalot and other indigenous communities in Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Aurora province, is now owned by CE Casecnan Water & Energy, a US company.

All of these projects were supposedly aimed at creating a stable supply of electricity and clean water. But based on the increasing prices of electric and water bills, these projects have only benefited the companies that owned them by reaping humongous profits from our people’s demise. This has become possible because of the government’s adherence to the neoliberal framework, which includes the complete surrender of public utilities to the private sector, that foreign and international banks are setting, i.e. the World Bank, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and the Korean Export Import Bank. Laws like the National Water Crisis Act of 1995, Renewable Energy Act of 2008, et cetera, are legitimizing such projects.

The Duterte administration is set to continue what its predecessors have done – sacrifice indigenous communities for the benefit of the local oligarchs like the Aboitiz, Lopez, Cojuangco, and Sy families. There are 400 proposed hydroelectric power projects that are set to wreak havoc in indigenous communities. Examples include the Pan-ay and Jalur Multi-Purpose Dam in Panay to affect Tumandok communities; the Balug Balog Dam in Tarlac against the Ayta; New Centennial Water Source project in Rizal and Quezon to displace hundreds of Remontado and Dumagat communities; and the Alimit Dam in Ifugao.

With the government spearheading the attacks against our communities, our only salvation is through our collective defense of our ancestral lands. Our militant struggle alongside the different sectors of our society will pave the way to victory as proven by our rich history of resistance, like how Macliing Dulag, the Cordillera people and entire Filipino people defeated the Chico Dam Project in the 1980s.

No to destructive large dams! Respect the indigenous peoples’ right to ancestral land and self-determination! Water and services for the people, not for corporations! No to water privatization!

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