Philippine indigenous peoples support struggle against Jalaur dam

Press release -
Date of publication: 
29 May, 2015

TAPAZ, Capiz – After a successful exchange program, 83 indigenous peoples from different indigenous groups and communities around the country forged unity to support the Tumandok in opposing the multibillion Jalaur dam project in Calinog, Iloilo.

“The construction of the Jalaur multi-purpose dam in the territories of the Tumandok in Central Panay will threaten the livelihoods, culture and right to land and self-determination of indigenous peoples. Thus, we unite to support the struggle of the Tumandok opposing the dam,” said Jill Cariño, convenor of the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP). The indigenous peoples exchange program of TFIP is an opportunity for the indigenous peoples to share their indigenous knowledge and learn from other indigenous groups’ culture, experiences and struggles in their respective communities.

The Jalaur multi-purpose project is being implemented by the National Irrigation Administration and is funded by the Korea Export-Import Bank (EXIM Bank). This will be constructed along the Jalaur River and will affect 17,000 Tumandok indigenous people and submerge their communities in Agcalaga, Masaroy, and Garangan in Calinog.

According to the Tumandok, the right to a free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples was not respected. They said that the “elders” who entered into an agreement with NIA giving their consent to build the dam were deceived, coerced, threatened, and bribed. “The communities affected must be consulted. Most of us do not want the dam to enter our communities. We will not allow the dam and will defend our land for the next generations to come,” Marevic Aguirre, chairperson of Tumandok, Inc., said.

A statement agreed upon by the IP Exchange participants stated, “Our rivers are a source of life. We conduct many of our sacred rituals in the rivers. Thus we should nurture and protect them. Also, the project site is prone to landslides and is under great risk of earthquakes due to the West Panay fault. With these adverse effects to the land, environment and lives of people, the construction of the large dam should not proceed.”

The participants of the IP exchange are calling on the government and companies to stop the privatization of rivers and water resources. “We call on the local government of the Municipality of Calinog and Province of Iloilo to respect and not to interfere in our indigenous process of decision making. We urge the NIA to give genuine and free irrigation services to the farmers including the IPs without sacrificing the lives of indigenous peoples. We exhort the NCIP to fulfill their mandate in protecting the rights of the indigenous peoples,” the statement read.

The IP exchange participants further called on the government of South Korea to stop funding the Jalaur dam project as it will not benefit the people and cause destruction of the environment. They also urged the Aquino administration to stop the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam and other dam projects in indigenous communities.

The IP Exchange 2015 culminated in a cultural exchange between the indigenous participants, a public forum with media and anti-dam and indigenous peoples’ advocates in Panay, and a dialogue with the Iloilo provincial government officials.

Reference: JILL CARINO
Convenor, TFIP
Contact No.: 09189245966
Email: tfip [at] philtfip [dot] net

Chairperson, TUMANDUK Inc.
Contact No.: 09468334542
Email: tumanduk_panay [at] yahoo [dot] com