Oppression against i-Kalingas and their struggle against dams
The people of Kalinga are facing a huge threat with the impending implementation of 15 hydropower projects which were recently awarded to nine companies directly or indirectly owned by big capitalists. At least three of these can be considered as megadam projects which will require reservoirs with a minimum depth of 15 meters capable of containing 3 million cubic meters of water. In general, these dams aim to generate 468.43 megawatts of electricity or 5.4% of the total Luzon Grid output.
The reactionary state has long claimed that such projects will spur development and should not be opposed by national minorities. This reasoning highlights the national oppression minorities face on top of their basic problems of landlessness, lack of decent livelihood, and exploitation as workers and farmers.
The i-Kalinga minorities, in particular, will mainly face landgrabbing of their ancestral lands by private companies. These lands are the primary source of their livelihood, and crucial to their culture and history. Even if they will not be immediately displaced, they will eventually lose ownership over the land as it will be under the control, operation and infrastructure of private companies..
These projects will change the residents way of life. They will no longer be able to catch fish or work in the area.
The construction of dams will result in massive floods and environmental destruction. By changing the natural course of the rivers, communities are set to experience worse floods during strong typhoons, especially those near the Chico river and tributaries linked to it.
The floods and construction of facilities for the said projects are expected to result in soil erosion. Trees will have to be cut to pave way for the construction of facilities. This will adversely affect the fauna and flora of Kalinga.
The construction of these projects are accompanied by fascist attacks and threats against the i-Kalingas by energy companies and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deployed to harass and threaten people who oppose the destructive projects. For instance, the Charlie Company of the 50th IB was assigned to secure the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project and ensure the immediate completion of the project.
These projects will result in the ethnocide of the i-Kalinga people. These hydropower projects will aggravate the people’s hardships to ensure superprofits for a few capitalists.
Contrary to claims by capitalists that these dam projects will give free electricity to residents, the power that will be generated by these dams will exclusively be transmitted to the national grid and sold to the National Power Corporation.
All these hydropower projects are owned by private companies. For example, the Chico Hydropower Project is owned by Enrique Razon Jr., in partnership with Oscar Violago. Like other businesses, these projects are profit-driven and not service-oriented.
These projects will only generate limited and temporary jobs. The Chico Run-Of-River Hydropower Project, for instance, will only generate 2,000 temporary jobs for construction workers, in addition to 19 workers who will ensure the daily operation of the project.
The i-Kalinga people have long been defending their rights by struggling against the construction of dams. They do so in the various forms of resistance and struggle even amid the pandemic.
Affected residents also did not give their free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) to the project. This is despite intense attacks and deception employed by electricity companies in connivance with the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples.
Among those they oppose vigorously is the Upper Tabuk Hydropower Project which has failed to start its construction since 2008 in the face of resistance by affected tribes and residents. The same is true with the status of the Chico Run-Of-River Hydropower Project which started to secure the FPIC of residents in 2016 and was supposed to have been completed in 2019. FPIC proceedings are currently suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The i-Kalingas continues to unite and struggle in the face of attacks, deception and bribery employed by the companies along with armed state agents. Their united clamor is clear: Botad tako losan!
Correspondence from Ilocos-Cordillera