President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat of using ‘extraordinary’ police powers to quell the opposition to Kaliwa Dam will create a human rights crisis that entrenches the Philippines as the deadliest nation in the world for environmental defenders.

Duterte cites the ‘greater good’ of Metro Manila residents confronting the water crisis as justification for further land-grabbing and militarizing the ancestral lands of the indigenous Dumagat people. There is no ‘greater good’ in militarizing the ancestral lands of the indigenous Dumagat and Remontado for a 600-MLD water proiect when there scientists note there are at least 8,255 MLD worth of safer, less-risk, alternative water sources at our disposal.

There is also no ‘greater good’ if the supposed water solution will result into forest destruction that will cascade into multiple risks. In the proposed Kaliwa Dam, around 300 hectares of forest area will be submerged with water. 

This magnitude of forest destruction can result in the significant decrease in water retention especially in dry season when water demand is higher. Forest clearing can also result in the decrease in the precipitation rate in an ecosystem due to the decline in plant precipitation that may result in less water flowing in a river systems.

This will also worsen sediment pollution loading into the river systems because there will be less vegetation holding the watershed’s soil together. Kaliwa Dam’s water supply will become increasingly unpotable.

Likewise, the lives of thousands of people living in the downstream of Kaliwa Watershed can be put in danger due to the increase risk in flooding due to the degradation of the upstream watershed.

The civil-political, socio-economic and cultural, and environmental rights of thousands upon thousands of indigenous, farmer, and downstream communities are clearly at risk. But the Kaliwa Dam has been granted an environmental compliance certificate and now enforcement through police powers without assessing and addressing these grave risks.

We call on the Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council to monitor the situation in the Kaliwa Dam areas for possible escalation of violations from Duterte’s marching orders. 

There must be an independent probe into the threat of a human rights crisis that the railroading of environmental impact assessment, free, prior and informed consent, and other regulatory processes will create, and which enforcement through police powers will definitely exacerbate.

We call on our fellow environmental defenders to stand with the communities of Southern Sierra Madre range against this threat of wholesale human rights violation from President Duterte himself.

Leon Dulce
National Coordinator
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment