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Tribal groups protest visit of Xi Jinping to Philippines

HONG KONG (SE): Tribal groups in the Philippines have vowed to hold protests when China’s president, Xi Jinping, visits from November 19.
 
His visit is expected to herald more development aid and progress on joint undersea fuel exploration for the Philippines.
 
However, the Network Opposed to Kaliwa-Kanan-Laiban Dam, an alliance of tribal groups, called on the Chinese government to pull out of committed loans and projects that will have a catastrophic effect on tribal lands.
 
Wilma Quirrez, spokesperson for the tribal network, said that with loans from China, a dam project on the main island of Luzon would encroach on more than 20,000 hectares of tribal land.
 
“This will destroy our sacred land and our environment, a damnation of our lives and of future generations,” she said.
 
It is expected the project deal will be signed during Xi’s visit. It is part of the Build, Build, Build programme of Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte.
 
Tribal groups, however, said the dam project would displace at least 31,000 people, mostly communities of the Dumagat and Remontado tribes in nine villages in Rizal and Quezon provinces.
 
“These profit-oriented projects will target the Filipino people’s natural resources, displace thousands of indigenous communities and violate their collective rights to their ancestral land and self-determination,” Quirrez said.
 
Itik delos Santos, leader of the Dumagat tribe in Rizal province, said the project will deplete his tribe’s water source. “No amount of money is worth the value of our land,” he said.
 
An advocacy group is set to question the legality of the US$300 million ($2,350 million) project before the Supreme Court.
 
“All it takes to file a Writ of Nature petition against (the building of the dam) are the objections of affected communities in two provinces,” said Terry Ridon of the group Infrawatch PH.
 
A Writ of Kalikasan or Writ of Nature is a legal remedy under Philippine law that provides protection of one’s constitutional right to a healthy environment, as outlined in the constitution.
 
Xi’s visit is expected to focus on how China can help the Philippines build railways, bridges and other infrastructure under the five-year, US$169 billion ($1,324 billion) Build, Build, Build programme.
 
Xi’s visit will be the eighth by a Chinese leader since diplomatic relations were established in 1975.

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