MANILA — While confident their 9-day journey to the nation’s capital successfully amplified their group’s opposition to the construction of the Kaliwa Dam, a leader of the Dumagat-Remontado tribes on Thursday said they were dismayed they had not been able to personally bring their concerns to the president.
The indigenous people (IPs) who began their march in General Nakar, Quezon on February 15 spent the final stretch appealing at the gates of 2 government agencies and brushing past the outskirts of Malacañang Palace.
Reaching their last destination at nightfall, community leader Conchita Calzado expressed disappointment at ending their walk without a dialogue with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“Sana man lang nagbigay si pangulo ng kanyang gabinete para kami ay kausapin at pakinggan ‘yong aming mga sentimyento, ngunit hindi kami napagbigyan,” she said.
“Sa kabuuan, hindi namin nakamit ang gusto namin mangyari na makausap mismo ang ating pangulo para ipaliwanag at sabihin sa kanya na imbestigahan ang mga ahensya ng gobyernong maanomalyang mga usapan na pumapayag na ipagawa ang Kaliwa Dam.”
Calzado added they have not yet received a response from the Palace to a letter they sent ahead last week asking to meet with the president.
The last day of the march saw the protesters outside the offices of project proponent Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City.
IPs and environmentalists say the dam would only provide for Metro Manila’s water supply for a limited period of 5 years but have far-reaching environmental effects such as increased flooding.
Engr. Ryan James Ayson, project manager for the Kaliwa Dam Project, told ANC on Thursday, building the dam would be safer for the affected communities since flooding instances would be controlled and monitored.
The marchers also failed to hold a program at the Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang, the historical gathering point for protests.
Police had formed a barricade facing the intersection to prevent the marchers from stepping foot in Mendiola.
The marchers instead proceeded to Paco Catholic School, where they would lodge for the night.
A solidarity program set at the venue that evening was canceled due to the nighttime arrival.
Calzado said they were still grateful for how they were treated by Manila police, who gave them water and escorted them for the rest of the march.
Calzado, who in 2009 marched with fellow IPs against the proposed Laiban Dam which was later canceled by the government, vowed to continue their resistance against the Kaliwa Dam.
She said IPs in the Sierra Madre have already given up parts of their land for the construction of other dams such as the Angat and Wawa Dams.
“Bakit kukunin pa ‘yong natitira pa naming lupaing ninuno at kagubatan?” Calzado asked.
“Kami ay hindi maramot. Naiintindihan namin ‘yong kakulangan ng tubig dito sa Maynila. Ngunit hindi kami naniniwalang wala nang iba pang solusyon.”
Calzado’s group had disowned a faction of the Dumagat-Remontados who last Tuesday received a P160 million “disturbance fee” from the MWSS in exchange for their consent to the dam.
The tribal leader said the marchers would still discuss if they will remain in Metro Manila until they hear a response from Malacañang or return to their provinces.
However, she said they were not sure where else they would be welcome to stay during that wait.
Kaliwa Dam, Dumagat-Remontado, indigenous peoples, IPs, katutubo, Quezon, Rizal, Dumagat, ANC, ANC promo