The Dumagat-Remontado leaders reminded the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) of its mandate to protect the Indigenous People against the so-called development projects, which they claim “pose great threat to ancestral territories.”
The leaders, who are from communities affected by the construction of the Kaliwa Kanan Laiban Dam Project, demanded NCIP to listen to the cries of the Indigenous communities instead of acting as the spokesperson of the project proponent.
The leaders said instead of accusing them of pushing “a crooked and deceptive agenda” and being used by “interest groups,” NCIP must review its own guidelines on the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) process that lacks “correct representation” and has “anomalies in the consensus-building process.”
The indigenous peoples leaders made the statement during the 7th day of a 9-day march of more than 300 Dumagat-Remontado peoples from General Nakar in Quezon province to the capital Manila to oppose the large-scale dam project.
On February 20, the regional office of NCIP in region IV-A claimed that the FPIC process “was followed and implemented according to the approved guidelines and anchored in indigenous knowledge and the system of having an agreement or consensus by virtue of the Dumagat customary law.”
“Indigenous leaders were toured and invited one by one to ensure their participation. It took fifteen days (15) for the NCIP staff to travel to the ancestral land to reach each indigenous leadership,” it said in a statement.
Protesting indigenous peoples, however, said those who were invited in the FPIC process were residents in communities “not affected by the project.”
“Nakapagdesisyon na kami na hindi. [Sa General Nakar, Quezon] lima (5) sa anim (6) na clusters ang nag-NO at isa lang ang YES. Naghabol sila ng 4th General Assembly na di maayos ang proseso, ilang leader lang ang pinapirma. Yung mga nag-YES lang ang pinapirma, pero yung mga nag-NO ay ‘di pinapirma,” said ata Silvino Astoveza, Elder-Gemot from Makid-ata, Gen. Nakar, Quezon.
Astoveza said the consultation was conducted in Real town, which is outside the affected area and far from the IP communities. “Hindi pa nga mga gemot ang pumirma dahil maraming mga bata, mas bata pa sa elders na kabahagi ng Alay-Lakad,” he said.
The protesting tribal people are now in Metro Manila for the last leg of their march to oppose the dam project. They are expected to reach the Malacañang Palace tomorrow to present to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. their grievances.