Opposition presidential candidate Maria Leoner “Leni” G. Robredo vowed Monday that construction work on a strong opposition project in the southern part of Luzon would not proceed without the consent of the affected sector, if he won, reiterating that community consultation would be an integral part of projects under his administration.
“I assure you, we will not deliver any project to you without your consent,” He was speaking in Filipino at a campaign rally in the city of Infanta, Queensland.
During the rally, Mrs. Robredo was joined by members of an indigenous community who opposed the China-funded project.
Environmentalists say the dam project will permanently flood 300 hectares of forest, which the government hopes will become an alternative source of water for the metropolitan Manila by 2025.
Mrs Robredo, who pledged to stand by the indigenous peoples and uphold due process, cited the law requiring residents affected by a project site to give their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) before proceeding with any planned construction work.
Despite opposition from tribal communities and environmental advocates, the project received an environmental clearance from the government in 2019. Construction, originally scheduled for January 2020 to December 2025, will now begin in June
Community leaders say talks for a memorandum of understanding were held by the government on the railways, but their concerns have not been addressed.
Terry L. Ridon, convener of the infrastructure think tank Infrawatch, said the next administration should ensure that all government projects are done through community-based consultation and that existing laws are strictly adhered to so that allocated government funds are not wasted.
“It will carry a more efficient project plan as it will limit the type of project already applicable in areas where community FPIC is required,” he said in a messenger chat.
“For example, a smaller, more limited dam project may be more acceptable than a larger dam that could permanently flood an entire ancestral land of an indigenous community,” he said.
Representatives of the affected communities said during the rally that only Mrs. Robredo, one of the popular presidential candidates, had strongly opposed the project. – Kyle Aristophier T. Atienja