Jun 26, 2020 by Coalition

The Pandemic’s Hidden Casualty: Human Rights


The lush forests of the Sierra Madre mountain range, on the Philippine island of Luzon, have been home to the Dumagat-Remontados indigenous peoples for centuries. But their ancestral lands are now under threat. In this area, the Philippine government is planning to build the Kaliwa Dam, despite environmental concerns and opposition from local indigenous communities at risk of being displaced and losing their livelihoods. In 2009, the Dumagat-Remontado – with the support of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance (SSMNA) – had successfully stopped the construction of the Laiban mega-dam  through a public campaign and legal actions. But under President Rodrigo Duterte, the project was scaled down and last year it secured a dubious environmental compliance certificate and a $211.2 million loan from China Exim Bank.

Since then, militarization in the area has increased. When the pandemic hit, the situation became even worse, as the heavy presence of police and the military due to the lockdown made it doubly hard for the local people to move freely in their land. In March, a member of the Dumagat-Remontado community was abducted and physically abused while in custody. As denounced by the SKDN, this was the latest episode in a context of continuous violence, unreasonable use of force, threats, and harassment by the military.

Across Southeast and South Asia, indigenous peoples and local communities – who were already severely impacted by development projects such as dams, agribusiness, or mining activities – are now facing additional challenges due to the COVID-19 emergency.

You can read the full article – written by Carmina Flores-Obanil (Asia Regional Coordinator of the Coalition for Human Rights in Development, with contributions from some of our partners in Southeast Asia – in The Diplomat.