KIBAWE, Bukidnon –The indigenous people Manobo in southern Bukidnon and North Cotabato provinces are claiming that the non-government organizations (NGOs) Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils.) and the Nasabakan Tarigunay Bukidnon Dut Kalindaan (NATABUK) or Cultural Solidarity of Indigenous Peoples in Bukidnon are only using them as capital for funding purposes so these NGOs can continue their opposition to the Pulangi 5 Hydro-electric Plant Project to the detriment of the lumad communities.
“Pulangi 5 hydro project: Mga NGO nga gasupak niini walay gihatag development sa tribong Manobo. Sila nangwarta sa hinabang gikan sa gawas
sa nasud! (Pulangi 5 hydro project: NGOs who are opposing this have not given development to the Manobo tribe. They are only after the funds from abroad),” said one placard prominently placed inside the Kibawe Gymnasium during the pro-Pulangi 5 forum last Friday.
The forum, organized by the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (FIBECO) and Greenergy Development Corporation, tackled the points raised by the
project’s opponents and especially the advantages of the project to the lumad community.
It was attended by more than a thousand mostly lumad people from the 22 barangays in the Bukidnon municipalities of Kitaotao, Kibawe, Damulog,
Dangcagan and President Roxas town in North Cotabato that will be affected by the project.
Revered “Father of Arakan Valley” Apo Caid Lansawan, 96, the most senior Manobo elder in Bukidnon and North Cotabato provinces, lamented that
younger Manobos misrepresented the tribe and allowed themselves to be used by NGOs in opposing the Pulangi 5 project to the detriment of the tribesfolks who have been longing for development and progress in their ancestral territories.
Dominggo “Datu Takutak” Asupra specifically identified LRC-KsK/FoE Phils. as among two prominent NGOs that are only using the lumads as
capital for funding purposes.
Other datus interviewed also identified NATABUK as the other NGO using the lumad to advance their own agenda to the detriment of the lumad.
Asupra, vice chairperson of the Kibawe Tribal Council of Elders (KTCE) and a former staff of NATABUK said that it is LRC and NATABUK have a lot
of explaining to do to the lumad community.
“Asa naman ang accounting sa milyones nga proyekto para unta sa mga lumad? Ang mga lumad elders,sama nila Apo Lansawan ug Datu Angaan, nga inyong gigamit as council of elders naghulat sa inyong accounting og gi-unsa ang foreign fundsog gasto,” he said.
Asupra alleged that LRC and NATABUK has mismanaged a P250,000 grant from Green Grants for a project.
He specifically identified Carl Cesar “Cocoi” Rebuta, former team leader of LRC-CDO, as the technical consultant of NATABUK in the
preparation of its proposal for the funding agency, the name of which he forgot.
But when this funding agency granted NATABUK P1.6 million for its project, not a single centavo had reached the community, he lamented.
Rebuta, who is now project development officer of LRC-KsK/FoE Phils,however, said through short messaging service (SMS or text message): “My
involvement with NATABUK is not as Cocoi but as LRC, the legal counsel of the community.”
He also denied being NATABUK’s technical consultant.
“Maybe not as technical consultant but as reference to vouch [for] the organization. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a network of Friends of the
Earth,” he said, in reference to his involvement with NATABUK and to the funding agency Asupra forgot to identify.
But in a separate electronic mail, Rebuta said: “My involvement with the Pulangi issue is since 1999, as LRC parelagal staff and later on as
Team leader of Cagayan de Oro Regional office.”
As to the P1.6 million, Rebuta said in his email that he is “not sure of the amount.”
“If I’m not mistaken, this project with community was assisted by International Rivers Network (IRN), thru Miss Imhoff. NATABUK is the
representative for dam-affected communities in SouthEast Asia through RWESA.
Again, if this is the project with IRN, the community accessed directly this funding window and managed the entire project implementation.Financial support
to this project as part of the agreement was directly given to the community,” he said.
RWESA is the acronym for Rivers Watch East and SE Asia, a network of peoples organizations and NGOs working to stop the funding of dam
projects in East and SE Asia and to restore rivers to the communities who depend on them. RWESA was formed in July 1, 2000.
He also challenged Asupra to direct his question to the funding agency directly.
“If any support given to the people’s organization by any funding agency, meaning, the org meet all the criteria and qualification, Mr. Asupra can
directly question the funding agency. That is welcome. All the funds activities transactions are directly monitored by the funding agency,” he said in his SMS.
As to the Green Grant’s P250,000 project grant to NATABUK, Rebuta said that Green Grants “providesmall grants directly to communities.”
“In 2001 or 2002, NATABUK, an umbrella organization of 18 Indigenous Peoples organization in Southern Bukidnon accessed this funding
window for the community campaign against the proposed construction of Pulangi V dam. This was assisted by Joan Carling and also with FOEI representatives as advisors of this funding grant. The entire money as part of the agreement with GGF [was] deposited to NATABUK’s account,” he said in his email.
He also cautioned Asupra against discrediting him.
“I won’t question Mr. Asupra as an employed community organizer of the dam proponent. It’s a libelous statement of Mr. Asupra. He can be liable
on that without any proof. Mr. Asupra should face the issue in behalf of his tribe and not to discredit individuals,” he said.
But Asupra said that LRC or NATABUK do not have monopoly in representing the lumads.
“Sila man ang wala gi-angayan namo kay wala silay natuman nga pasalig sa amo,”(They are the ones not liked by our communities as they have
reneged on their promises to us.)
The Manobo datus said that LRC and NATABUKhave interfered into their affairs but have not contributed to the development of their communities
Feliciano “Datu Anggaan” Mansalida, chairperson of Barangay Anggaan, Damulog, Bukidnon, said that majority of the residents of the 22
affected barangays are all in favor of Pulangi 5 Hydro-electric Plant Project.
Anggaan said the project’s proponents FIBECO and Greenergy will open the floodgates of development to the lumad communites in southern Bukidnon and North Cotabato provinces.
“As a matter of fact, I want that project started while I am still aliveand see the development and progress that it would bring to my people,” said Apo Lansawan, 96, the most senior Manobo elder in Bukidnon and North Cotabato province, in summarizing the aspirations of the lumads.
By Bong D. Fabe