Box: Why the ECC process for the Kaliwa dam was flawed, says anthropologist
In any massive infrastructure project affecting their ancestral lands, Indigenous Peoples (IP) like the Dumagat-Remontados are protected by the concept of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
An FPIC is an international human rights mechanism and process where IPs make their own collective decisions on issues that affect them, such as their economic, social and cultural development.
Because the Kaliwa dam falls under the ancestral domain of the Dumagat-Remontado communities in Rizal and Quezon provinces, project entrepreneurs must obtain FPIC from the tribes.
They must also obtain a certificate of environmental compliance from the Department of Natural Resources-Office of Environmental Management.
The ECC can be obtained after submission of an environmental impact assessment and after approval from a team of multidisciplinary specialists.
But anthropologist Nestor Castro, who was asked by the government to conduct a social impact assessment of the Kaliwa dam in 2018, said the process had been flawed and consultations for the project had not been sufficient. .
Castro said their team had only met three times before asking them to submit their comments, even though “the pressure was too intense for them” to complete their reviews.
They were also not allowed to visit the project site due to an alleged infestation by armed rebels, Castro said. He therefore had to rely on petition letters submitted by tribal members, where “almost everyone opposed the project. They referred to their ancestral estate management plan, ”Castro said.
In his letter to the Chief, Environmental Impact Assessment and Management Division, Office of Environmental Management, dated October 7, 2019, Castro said he could not endorse the project because it “remains socially unacceptable for the IPs of the project area.”
In his work, Castro stressed that his decision should depend on the perception of the people of the region, especially the Dumagat-Remontado communities, about the massive development project.
Castro said their opposition to “large dam” projects is explicitly mentioned in their ancestral estate management plan.
Many of them, he said, also expressed fears that their sacred sites, hunting grounds and precious flora and fauna could be inundated by the dam.
In making his decision, Castro said he should review the environmental impact assessment report submitted by the metropolitan water and sewer system in July 2019 and the additional information they requested from the project developer. .
However, reading these documents led him to “conclude that the company, MWSS, was not in a position to obtain social acceptance for this project”.
Castro also concluded that the project did not have the free, prior and informed consent of affected communities during the period covered by their assessment.
In his letter, Castro cited 23 communities who expressed their opposition to the construction of the massive dam.
“Although it can be argued that securing FPIC is a requirement of the [National Commission on Indigenous Peoples] NCIP and not EMB-DENR and it may be a post-ECC condition, IP resolutions already indicate that the proposed project is not socially acceptable for NPs, ”Castro said.
“It has also been the perception, not only of MWSS but of almost all companies requesting ECC, that this requirement should only be met in the event of non-compliance. “It is asked of us, so we will. “This has always been the attitude of many project promoters,” he said.
Castro said the assessment could have been foolproof had there been more meetings, public hearings and more extensive consultations with the public.
Visiting the affected areas and having a “better information education procedure” could also have made a difference for the communities.
“I believe people are not stubborn, but the company’s communication messages do not match the worldview of IPs,” he said.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
To subscribe to REQUEST MORE to access The Philippine Daily Inquirer and over 70 other titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download from 4 a.m. and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.