Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific strongly condemns the killing of indigenous leaders in the Philippines who were opposed to the Jalaur River mega dam project.

 

On 30 December 2020, just two days before the new year, nine Tumandok indigenous leaders were killed, and 16 more arrested in central Panay, Philippines. This massacre is a tragic mark to the decades-long struggle of the Tumandok indigenous people against the Jalaur River mega dam project.

The Jalaur mega dam is a project financed by the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM). It threatens displace up to 17,000 people. It stands to become the largest dam outside of Luzon. Korean construction firm Daewoo Engineering and Construction is slated to implement the project. Five Tumandok burial grounds and one sacred site would also be destroyed as a result of this colossal dam, as found by a research team from the University of the Philippines – Visayas.

The rich Panay Bukidnon culture is on the line. This culture was almost wiped out in the ‘80s and ‘90s because of violence brought about militarization and development aggression. Since then community members, Filipino scholars and cultural practitioners have tried to shine a light on and revive Panay Bukidnon culture. It is this culture, and its attendant customs, practices and knowledge systems, that have allowed forests, watersheds, and rivers in that area to thrive.

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific demands that:

  • The Philippine government investigates the killings, suspends the permit for the Jalaur mega dam project and bring all perpetrators to justice,
  • The practice of red-tagging communities which resist large-scale commercial projects be stopped. Red-tagging puts a target on the backs of community members,
  • The Export-Import Bank of Korea and allied organisations cease funding for the project, and
  • The governments of the Philippines and South Korea support a legally binding treaty to stop corporate impunity and their complicity in development aggression.

The purported gains from this project cannot outweigh the lives lost and the specter of death and destruction that it tempts.

The tragic deaths of the Tumandok indigenous leaders have occured within a broader pattern of criminalisation and intimidation of Philippines human rights defenders, and impunity for perpetrators. We call for an end to the corporate plunder of community resources, and an end to attacks on defenders. Above all, we urgently call for the prevention of further bloodshed, preserving a flourishing indigenous culture, and defending the environment.

 

For further information please reach: 

Maya Quirino,
Advocacy Coordinator, Legal Rights and Resources Centre
Email: mquirino.lrc@gmail.com

Emma Harvey,
FoE Asia Pacific Communications Coordinator
Email: emma.harvey@foe.org.au