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My call for the Philippine government today is to stop KALIWA DAM

Straight Talk
by Nimfa Estrellado
January 11, 2020

Indigenous people (IP) in the Philippines (Dumagat) oppose Kaliwa Dam, which will displace thousands: “The dam will affect not just the river, but the people who depend on it for survival.” - Kakay Tolentino, BAI Network of Indigenous Women

My call for the Philippine government today is to really stop the plan for KALIWA DAM. Do not sacrifice the IP to save the Metro Manila. To degrade the environment where IPs are dependent of their livelihood and culture is a move for cultural extinction. According to Diokno, Kaliwa Dam is not the solution - environmental destruction, built on fault line, displacement of indigenous people. Solution is comprehensive policy.

Quezon province is widely known for its interesting tribe cultures and is thronged by culture enthusiasts from far and wide. Quezon province is literally a hidden pearl of the Philippines, Quezon is southeast of Metro Manila and is bordered by the provinces of Aurora to the north, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Batangas to the west and the provinces of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur to the east. Part of Quezon lies on an isthmus connecting the Bicol Peninsula to the main part of Luzon. Beautiful sandy beaches, gorgeous coral reefs, pulsating adventures and unique tribal cultures.

A large number of people visit this territory to see its tribal communities and their unique set of traditions and customs. Quezon province is a place with aboriginal Dumagat communities, a different group of Aeta. Culture enthusiasts from far and wide take Quezon province tour to explore distinct and enchanting cultures of these tribe groups. Many of these groups still shy away from outsiders and live a hunting-gathering lifestyle. Like most Filipinos, the Dumagat of Quezon province also look to education to escape a life of poverty. Dumagats tribe’s name was derived from the word “dagat” or sea.


Dumagat people live in the mountains of Aurora, Rizal and Quezon provinces in the northern region of Luzon, depend on their forests and rivers to survive. They rely on the river to transport their produce, mostly bananas, honey and tree resin, to market.

Now their peaceful way of life is being threatened.

Dumagat leader laments alleged lack of tribe consent for Kaliwa dam: ‘Binabraso nila kami’. Kaliwa dam is a threat to them. It is a threat to their way of living.

Many parts of the river are considered sacred grounds by the Dumagat Tribe. Have you seen the river and its surrounding areas that WILL be affected by the building of the proposed dam? It’s so beautiful it makes my heart ache knowing there’s a possibility that we’ll lose them.


People and animals alike depend on the river and the mountains to live. We are nothing without nature. We should respect it. And, we will give a death sentence to the culture of the Dumagat Tribe if we push them away from THEIR ancestral lands.

The Dumagat is one of the most misunderstood IP I know largely because of our anthropological framework of identifying cultures by means of artifacts, fashion, and literature. They are beyond our concepts.

To solve the impending water crisis, we need to think differently about how we manage our water. Rather than building Kaliwa Dam, we need to develop alternatives. According to CBC, launch a massive education campaign to convince the 13 million Metro Manila residents to learn “water management”. This would reduce water consumption significantly. Harvest rain water. Fast track the recovery of the NRW (non-revenue water) through fixing leaks; Rehabilitate the Pasig-Laguna River Basin which would cost only P13 Billion (estimated by Dr. Esteban Godilano, an environmental scientist). Adopt the Singapore New Water technology which treats wastewater to become potable. And most importantly, protect and expand our dwindling forests that serves as our largest watershed and these would refill our underground aquifers which are now over extracted.

By working with nature and towards innovation, we can develop cleaner, healthier and friendlier homes, neighborhoods and communities.

Our water supply and infrastructure will be easier to maintain, and will be more resilient to severe droughts and violent storms. The water we use to wash our clothes can be reused to flush toilets and water gardens. By maintaining and restoring our forests, marshes and wetlands we can help our local watersheds and ecosystems weather extreme weather and withstand drought. Ultimately, we can redesign our homes and communities to work with the natural cycle of water, rather than against it.