Writer and Photographer: Gigie Cruz
I am Lemuel Fortunado, 21 years-old. I was born here in General Nakar, Quezon.
Life here is a bit difficult but we manage. I am not in favor of the Kaliwa Dam project because its machinery will affect our community. This project might divide our tribe and lead to disunity among us.
I currently work in Pasig as a porter in the market. I went home just to attend the third assembly for the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) Process. It is here where our agreement or disagreement with the project will be decided. I had to explain to my boss how important it was to have the voice of the indigenous people be heard in this forum.
My family also opposes this dam for the same reason: that it will spoil our land. We are concerned for the next generation. We are currently free to have our livelihood in the forests of Sierra Madre but worry about it being restricted or controlled if the project pushes through in our community.
I urge the Philippine government to think about marginalized people like us. There will be sacrifices and lives ruined if the dam is constructed.
The youth in my community also talk about the dam and they, too, are expressing their opposition to the project for fear of the destruction it will bring to our environment. There may come a time that we, ourselves, people living in ancestral lands, are stripped of indigenous rights and have to work for outsiders in our own land.
If the dam project pushes through, we will be restricted and will lose the freedom to roam our ancestral lands. They will not be ours anymore. This is a happy place right now but might become chaotic when outsiders come in.
As of now, there is no clear explanation of the possible compensation or benefits of the project to our community
If we are offered to relocate to other lands, I will still not accept it. Relocation is equivalent to restarting a new life, a new investment. It is difficult to start anew. We are seven siblings. Our youngest is only one year old. My siblings may seem calm, but I know that they also worry about it.
As an indigenous people, we strive to participate in a forum where we can air our opinions and opposition to the dam. Just recently there was a pilgrimage trek from Infanta to Antipolo to Malacañang to show opposition to the project. Our leaders and some representatives of the community were able to join the trek. They spoke about our plight and issues with the project.
If given an opportunity to join, I will surely go. Currently, the youth in our community are disseminating information about the dam project to other villages so that they also understand its impact on all of us.
I am pleading with the residents and leaders of General Nakar to reject the dam, for it will affect all of us – our livelihood, the environment and our tribes will be ruined.
To the government of China, please scrutinize the projects that you are funding. Ensure that these projects will not affect any indigenous people and run over ancestral lands.