Indigenous peoples “tumandok” rally for life

Posted: March 9, 2014 in Dam, Indigenous Peoples, PAMANGGAS, Peasants, Tumandok
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Panay-bukidnon tribe raised their opposition to the Jalaur mega dam of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) saying their land, lives, and livelihood will be gone once the dam is built. – Photo by: PAMANGGAS

ILOILO City, Philippines – Indigenous peoples under TUMANDUK (Indigenous Farmers in Defense of Land and Life) organization held a picket last February 26 in front of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) office at Barangay Tacas, Jaro, Iloilo City in opposition to the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase II (JRMP2), aka Jalaur mega dam project.

Numbering around 60 individuals, the group was joined by members of Panay and Guimaras wide peasant alliance PAMANGGAS, women group GABRIELA, urban poor settlers KADAMAY, all under the Panay wide alliance of BAYAN-Panay.

“We do not need the dam. What will be left of us when our areas are submerge in waters? Where do we live? What will we plant on waters? And how do we live when our life, culture and livelihood is already gone?,” cried Reynaldo Giganto, a TUMANDUK council member.

According to Giganto, the project is never and will never favor the indigenous peoples. “The offered 17,000 jobs are just temporary. After that, what is left of us is our land floating on waters.”

“And if the jobs come, what jobs are we getting but solely odd jobs like masonry, carpentry, and other low-paying jobs that need not college or high school education,” he added.

On her part, Marevic Aguirre, TUMANDUK chairperson, said that NIA has consistently hide, limit information and even distort it in favor of their personal interests.

“In their Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) or in any other meetings, they (NIA) never discussed the issue that tumandok areas will be submerged. But in their submitted feasibility study report to the Korean Export-Import Bank in November 2011, it indicated submerged areas.”

The administration’s counter arguments were heard yesterday afternoon after the Supreme Court issued a Writ of Kalikasan in October 2013. The high court found the petitioner’s case of former Cong. Augusto Syjuco Jr, “sufficient in form and substance”.

Respondents in the petition were the officials from NIA, NCIP, DENR, NEDA, DA, DAR, DPWH and Sen. Frank Drilon, among others.

“While this office is steady-strong in pursuing the project, they will also expect strong and growing opposition not just from us tumandoks, but the entire Ilonggo and Filipino people as well,” Giganto ended.

The hearing made a recess after more than an hour of counter argument presentation. The proponent’s group even tried to nullify and dismiss the case but the Court of Appeals stand by its decision that the petitioner’s case remains legitimate.

The hearing will resume on March 14 in a debate exercise of both sides.###

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