Why the ECC process for Kaliwa Dam had been faulty, according to an anthropologist – INQUIRER.net

In any massive infrastructure project affecting their ancestral lands, indigenous peoples (IPs) 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 undertake their own collective decision on matters that affect them, such as their economic, social and cultural development.

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Because the Kaliwa Dam falls within the ancestral domain of Dumagat-Remontado communities in Rizal and Quezon provinces, the project contractors must obtain an FPIC from the tribes.
They must also secure an environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau.

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The ECC can be obtained after an environmental impact assessment has been submitted and upon the endorsement of a team of multi-disciplinary specialists.
But anthropologist Nestor Castro, who was asked by the government to conduct a social impact assessment of the Kaliwa Dam in 2018, thought that the process had been faulty, and consultations for the project had not been sufficient.

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Castro said their team only met thrice before they were asked to submit their comments, even as “the pressure was too intense for them” to finish their assessments.
They were also not allowed to visit the project site due to alleged infestation of armed rebels, Castro said. So he had to rely on petition letters submitted by the tribespeople, where “almost all of them opposed the project. They referred to their ancestral domain management plan,” said Castro.
In his letter addressed to the chief of the Environmental Impact Assessment and Management Division of the Environmental Management Bureau, dated Oct. 7, 2019, Castro said he could not give his endorsement to the project as it “remains socially unacceptable to the IPs of the project area.”
In his work, Castro stressed that his decision has to depend on the perceptions of the people in the area, especially the Dumagat-Remontado communities, about the massive development project.
Castro said that their opposition to “big dam” projects is explicitly stated in their ancestral domain management plan.

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Many of them, he said, also expressed fears that their sacred sites, hunting grounds and precious flora and fauna will be inundated by the dam.
In making his decision, Castro said he had to review the environmental impact assessment report submitted by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System in July 2019 and the additional information they requested from the project proponent.
However, reading these materials led him to “the conclusion that the company, MWSS, was not able to secure social acceptance from this project.”
Castro also concluded that the project has no free, prior and informed consent from the affected communities within the period covered by their assessment.
In his letter, Castro cited 23 communities who expressed opposition to the construction of the massive dam.
“While it may be argued that the securing of the FPIC is a requirement of the [National Commission on Indigenous Peoples] NCIP and not of the EMB-DENR and that it may be a post-ECC condition, the IP resolutions already indicate that the proposed project is not socially acceptable to the IPs,” said Castro.
“It has also been the perception, not only of the MWSS but almost all companies applying for ECC, that this requirement should be addressed only out of compliance. ‘It is being required from us, therefore we will do it,” It has always been the attitude of many project proponents,” he said.
Castro said the assessment could have been foolproof if there had been more meetings, public hearings and deeper consultations with the public.
Visiting the affected areas and having a “better information education procedure” could have also spelled a difference to the communities.
“I believe that the people are not hardheaded, but the communication messages of the company do not align with the worldview of the IPs,” he said.
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