By: JOHN IAN ALENCIAGA
CALINOG, Iloilo – Nestor Castor, 50, walked for 30 minutes from his house along the Jalaur river in Barangay Agcalaga going to the next upland village Barangay Garangan in the middle of the rising sun yesterday morning to air his sentiments against the proposed Jalaur mega dam project of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
But to no avail.
“Wara nanda kami gin-atubangan. Wara nanda gintuman ang ila pagpanghangkat nga atubangon nanda kami nga nagapamatuk sa dam. Asta lang man gali sila sa hambal,” Castor said while holding a four-page position paper of their grievances and demands.
(They (NIA and Caballeros) did not face us. They did not hold on to their challenge of facing us, anti-dam IPs. They were just all talk.)
The activity which was called by the Caballero brothers last week is supposed to happen in Barangay Agcalaga but was changed one day before the activity. It was sponsored by the Calinog Indigenous Peoples Organization (CIPO).
Published in the local daily Panay News on September 25, Federico Caballero, the eldest of the Caballero brothers, urged anti-dam IPs to attend a gathering on Sept. 30 in Barangay Agcalaga, Calinog.
“Pag-abot namun sa lugar, nagapirmahanay na sila. Sang ginpamangkot namon ang mga pumuluyo ano ila ginpirmahan, hambal nanda nga para ini sa attendance kag sa panyaga. Pero sa pagkamatuod gale, pagsuporta na adto sa CIPO kag sa dam,” Castor said.
(When we came to the venue, they (NIA) were already gathering signatures. We asked the IPs what were they signing and they just say it is for the attendance and lunch. But truthfully, the manifesto is already in support for CIPO and the dam.)
Present during the assembly of indigenous peoples were officials from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Calinog SB member and CIPO chairperson Renato Casinao, and the Caballero family.
“Nakibot kami nga-a puro pamilya sang mga Caballero lang ang ara didto halin sa GMA (Garangan, Masaroy, Agcalaga) area. Pati mga taga-Tapaz ara man didto, nga amo ang mayorya sang mga tumalambong, mga taga-Tacayan, Nayawan, Acuňa, kag Buri. Tama ka daku nga pagpatalang sa pumuluyong tumandok ang gina-ubra sang NCIP, NIA, kag sang CIPO,” Castor said.
(We were appalled to see that only Caballero family are present from the GMA area. Also IPs from Tapaz, who were the majority, were their. This is a huge deception of the NCIP, NIA and CIPO against the IPs.)
“Ginapamangkot namon sanda ano ang CIPO, wala man gale nila napa-athag sa pumuluyo. Apang ginawaragwag na nila nga mga miyembro nila ini bangud lang kay nagtipon sila. Ang mga Caballero, nagyuhum-yuhum lang sa amon. Ni isa ka tinaga wara gid sanda may ginhambal angot sa ginpatawag nila nga maatubangay kami,” Castor added.
(The CIPO was never explained to the IPs. But the CIPO is announcing it already that they are their members because they gathered together. The Caballeros only smirked to us. We never heard a single word from them regarding the face off challenge.)
POSITION PAPER HALTED
Anti-dam IPs presented a four-page position paper but was refused by SB Renato Casinao to be read.
“Indi nanda gusto basahon namun ang amon mga demanda kag pagpamatuk. Indi nila gusto mabatian sang pumuluyo ang matuod-tuod nga baho sang ila proyekto sa mega dam. Mga talawit man gali sila,” Castor said.
(They refused that our demands and opposition be read. They do not want the IPs to hear the real score of the dam project. They are cowards.)
Their petition was initially signed by more than 100 IPs from the villages of Alibunan, Agcalaga, Garangan and Masaroy, all in Calinog town.
It reiterated the group’s stand against Jalaur mega dam as it will displace them, damage destroy their lives and livelihood, their culture and identity will be gone and it will not benefit the people from irrigation, potable water and electric supply.
“Pauna pa lang daya namon. May masunod pa ka gatos-gatos tubtob linibo ka pirma sa pagpamatuk sa dam,” Castor assured.
(This is just a beginning of the hundred to thousand signatures against the dam.)
The group said they will submit their petition to the local government unit of Calinog, the province of Iloilo, the NIA, the NCIP and to President BS Aquino.
The activity was held at Balay Tulun-an of the Caballero and was guarded by a seven-member team of the Philippine Army led by Federico’s son.
“Ano tana ana ka mga army diya? Sa mga pagtiriripon ka pumuluyo, dapat wara tana ang mga army. Gapakita lang ini sang ila nga kakahasan para padayon nga i-harass ang pumuluyo para indi makapamatok sa dam,” Berna Castor, a relative of Nestor whose ancestral lands were already damaged by NIA during road construction.
(What are the army’s agenda here? Armies are not supposed to be present during people’s assembly. This shows how violent they are in continuing to harass the people not to oppose the dam.)
About 100 meters from the venue, another seven-man team unit of the AFP is stationed.
“Ari na nadi sila kada adlaw kag galibot adlaw-gab-i. Armado sanda kag may kontra. Diri pa sila sa amon nga sentro gani delikado ang amon kabuhi,” the female Castor added.
(They are here everyday roaming day and night. They have arms and enemies. They are staying at the center of the community, hence putting our lives at stake.)
Detachments of the 50 member Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (PNP-SAF) and about 20 members of the military are found in Barangay Agcalaga, the former guarding the barracks of NIA’s contractor Newington Construction Company.
Newington is in-charged of road and irrigation canal construction that led to destruction of hundreds hectares of IPs farm and rice lands and houses.
“Padayon namon nga pamatukan ang dam kag ang mga pagpaniplang kag pagpatalang sang mga ahensya sang gobyerno sa pumuluyo (We will continue to oppose the dam, the deceptions and delusions of government agencies to the people),” Castor said./