Lumads: The fight against Hedcor’s hydro power plant is never over

“We have brought our opposition against Hedcor’s hydropower plant before the local government of Davao del Sur. We hope that they would heed our just demands.  All we want is for our inherent rights over our ancestral lands to be respected,” said Roger Limokon, SiLuBaMe chairperson.

On February 2, 2008, the Peoples’ Consultation, a dialogue with the provincial board of Davao Del Sur was initiated by SiLuBaMe. Provincial Board Members Molina and Bello of the province’s Committee on Environmental Concerns and Committee on Tribal Affairs attended the consultation. Strangely, the military soldiers also showed interest in joining the event, in fact together with more than a hundred military soldiers, a certain Lt.  Renin of the 39th Infantry Battalion actively participated in the consultation.
In the said consultation Hon. Bello promised that committee hearings will be aptly conducted based on SiLuBaMe’s complaint that Hedcor violated genuine consultation processes when it did not disclose to the whole community the adverse impacts of the project.  The local officials also said they will review the memorandum of agreement between the community and Hedcor.

The board members were toured around the almost 10- hectare head-pond being constructed above the Tudaya Elementary School. They cited the experience of Ormoc, Marinduque among others as tragedies wrought by private companies’ interest for profit.

According to the Pasakaa Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao, the construction of a hydro-power plant, within Tudaya falls, a sacred ground for the Bagobo -Tagabawa lumads violates their cultural and ancestral land rights. The project also violates environmental preservation since it is located in Mt. Apo, a declared protected area.

Mel Elio, Pasaka chairperson said that according to the Technical Working Group which initiated the feasibility study of the project, water shortage after 20 years may arise. Other environmental impacts include the possibility of flash floods, endangering the school children and the communities below. The hydro-power plant will also affect land and water biodiversity and resources, contributed by the wastes from the plant.

During the consultation, more than 100 military elements from the 39th and 72nd Infantry Battalion have assembled in Sitio Tudaya. Lt. Renin of the 39th IB said a detachment of the 72nd IB will be built a kilometer away from the Tudaya Falls.

According to local residents, additional elements of military soldiers were deployed and arrive in their area the day before the scheduled consultation. SiLuBaMe strongly believes the soldiers’ presence in the area was deliberately done to intimidate the people.

“The militarization of Tudaya at the height of the Tagabawa lumads’ assertion of their ancestral land rights over capitalist interests shows clearly which master the military serves. Instead of siding with the people, they are used as instruments of violence in order to protect the profits of capitalists,” Elio said.
Board Member Bello also challenged the presence of the AFP, saying it should not get in the way of the people’s political affairs. He encouraged the people to report instances of military abuse in the area.

For Reference Please Contact:

ROGER LIMOKON                                     MEL ELIO
SiLuBaMe chairperson                              Pasaka Chairperson

Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao
c/o Diakonia Center, IFI Compound, F. Torres St., Davao City;
Contact telephone #s: 305-0824; CP #: 0929-2658967