March 14 is the International Day of Action for Rivers where environment enthusiasts come together to reiterate the importance of protecting our tributaries being the source of clean water for
livelihood and survival. This event started to be celebrated in 1997 in Brazil with the call for a united effort to protect rivers from all forms of harm. This year’s theme is “Rights of Rivers” to recognize tributaries as national treasure.

The campaign is clearly relevant; hence, it is imperative for every human being to participate in the celebration. Environmental activists have organized river walks, clean up drives and webinars to emphasize how rivers serve as lifelines of the planet. Environmentalist organizations from about 30 countries across the globe are participating in these activities. Here in the Cordillera, we saw
posts of some anti-government groups under the CPP-NPA-NDF on Facebook that are claiming to
care about our tributaries.

These brag of holding their so-called “Community Learning Exchanges” tilted as, “Our Rivers, Ours to Defend” in line with the International Day of Action for Rivers. These groups therefore conducted community dialogues in Balbalan, Kalinga and Bokod, Benguet on 13 March 2023 that
centered on their opposition to hydropower dams in Indigenous communities due to speculation of
flooding and displacement of indigenous peoples. Their cause may be consistent with the intention of the proponents of the International Day of Action for Rivers.

It may appear noble, but what their audience in these dialogues do not know is how these groups managed to circulate malicious allegations against a government agency. They accused the said agency of manipulating community consultations on a dam project in Apayao, when in fact, these groups are the ones devising ways to sabotage consultations by preventing the affected residents
from attending general assemblies where they are supposed to make their stand.

These groups blind the people on initiatives to tap natural resources for development at the same time ensuring protection of both ancestral domains and the IPs by dwelling on unfounded assumptions of plunder of resources. The International Day of Action for Rivers is therefore a very convenient venue for these groups to push such malicious speculations to portray themselves as pro-environment and pro-people with the intention of earning influence from the IPs in Apayao, Kalinga and Benguet. So, let us not make a mistake of joining activities of these groups that are clearly using and riding on this annual event to push some political agenda at the expense of our innocent Indigenous Peoples.

Amianan Balita Ngayon