Tell it to SunStar: Promotion of ‘killer’ big dams, coal mines

NATIONAL minorities under the Sandugo alliance of Moro and Indigenous Peoples stormed the gates of the Department of Energy (DOE) recently to protest the expanding encroachment of large hydropower, coal mine, and other destructive energy projects into their ancestral lands.

We join Sandugo in protesting the DOE for being a rubber-stamp agency for big dams, coal mines, and other destructive energy projects in the Philippines. Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, a former executive of big energy corporation Aboitiz, cannot deny his ulterior motives in pushing for more opportunities for his big business interests.

Where DOE pushes for more mega dams and coal mines, military and paramilitary forces pour in to quell community resistance. Since 2001, at least 11 cases of extrajudicial killings against energy activists were perpetrated.

Many frontline environmental defenders, especially indigenous people, are being harassed, threatened, and forcibly displaced by combat operations and other forms of militarization.

In the region of Cordillera, the indigenous Igorot who oppose the various dam and geothermal projects of Aboitiz are constantly harassed by elements of the 54th Infantry Battalion, 81st Infantry Battalion, and the 503rd Brigade of the Philippine Army. Their leaders, such as church and development worker and Kankanaey-Igorota Sarah Abellon-Alikes, have even been slapped with trumped-up charges.

Down in the hinterlands of SOCSKSARGEN, the indigenous Dulangan Manobo are being subjected to the most atrocious human rights violations for opposing the proposed coal mines and other destructive projects of DM Consunji Inc. John Calaba, an officer of the Dulangan Manobo organization Keduma, was “disappeared” by the private paramilitary groups of DMCI in 2015.

Various other energy projects across the provinces of Isabela, Zambales, Tarlac, Rizal, Quezon, Panay, Surigao del Sur, and Bukidnon, among others, are besieging the ancestral domains of indigenous people.

President Rodrigo Duterte, for all his tough talk against environmental destruction, has been pushing for more and more mega dams, coal power projects, and other destructive energy projects. He secured P10 billion rom the Chinese government for the Laiban Dam project, which is much reviled by the Dumagat people of Rizal.

Large dam projects are a major component of Duterte’s neoliberal program “Build Build Build.” The program aims to spend trillions of pesos of public money for big ticket infrastructure projects like hydro electric dams.

Environmental defenders will continue to resist these killer dams and coal mines. We will not be cowed by Duterte’s military and paramilitary attack dogs terrorizing our communities resisting these energy projects.

Duterte can expect scores of environmental defenders to join the massive protest against extrajudicial killings, militarization, and human rights violations set on September 21 at the Luneta Park. We will not back down from his regime of tyranny and repression.--Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
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