Defending Ancestral Lands in the Philippines supported by We Effect and the European Union

DEFEND Action is a partnership between We Effect, PAKISAMA (Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka), the European Union, and its main stakeholder, the Dumagat-Remontado Indigenous People. The project sets its sights on initiating empowering activities to halt the construction of Kaliwa Dam, which poses a grave threat to the lives of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe including their ancestral domain and livelihood.

Tinipak River as seen at the Sierra Madre Mountain Range                                        Photo by: Kisha Beringuela

We Effect partners with PAKISAMA (National Federation of Farmer Organizations) and the European Union in the implementation of Defend Indigenous People in the Ancestral Domain (DEFEND) Project to increase capacities of the Dumagat Remontado indigenous communities in nurturing and protecting their ancestral domain in two municipalities (Tanay in the Province of Rizal, and General Nakar in the Province of Quezon) where around 300 hectares of their land in the Sierra Madre mountain range is threatened to be submerged with the on-going construction of the 600MLD Kaliwa Dam.

This Dumagat Village faces the risk of submersion due to the construction of the Kaliwa Dam                                            Photo by Kisha Beringuela

The Kaliwa dam construction will affect the ecosystem of some 12,000 hectares of pristine forests with rich flora and fauna.  DEFEND Action seeks to strengthen the capacities of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe in nurturing and protecting their ancestral domain’s natural resources and biodiversity and to increase their capacities as environmental human rights defenders.

With the support of the European Union (EU), DEFEND Project works with seven Dumagat-Remontado IP organizations (IMASAT, SAGIBIN, KGAT, GUPAD, SUKATAN, SAKADURE, SSMYVO) to strengthen their capacities as Environmental Human Rights Defenders (EHRDs) and collectively work with civil society organizations (CSOs) in defending their social and economic human rights in their ancestral domain. Capacity-building activities on organizational development, community security mechanisms, and risk management, as well as leadership skills, were organized in the first year of the project putting a premium on women and youth empowerment.

Marites Pauig and Nelly Dela Carzada, IP Women Leaders from the Dumagat Remontado Tribe Daraitan, Tanay  
Photo by: Kisha Beringuela

Now on its second year, DEFEND Project rolled out the Defenders Fund Provision for Risk Management Efforts (PRIME) with ten IPO- and CSO-implemented projects aimed at bolstering the IP-EHRD communities’ security and defense capacities. The projects include para-legal training, organization building, livelihood and cooperatives, social protection, community forest management, and advocacy.

Renato Ibanez, a tribal leader from the Dumagat-Remontado Community of Rizal         Photo by: Kisha Beringuela

Partner IPOs and CSO grantees of Defenders Fund PRIME gathered for the launch and orientation last February 8 in Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal for projects to be implemented Tanay, Rizal and, on February 13 in Infanta, Quezon for projects to be implemented in General Nakar, Quezon. Partners briefly shared their project intents and activities while DEFEND Project team gave an orientation on project reporting, finance and documentation requirements. A communication point was also set up for partners to easily coordinate and extend support to each other.

Defenders Fund also set up an emergency response project called the Contributions to Actions Responding to Emergencies (CARE) where a small network of CSOs duly trusted and recognized by the partner IPOs, with their network of resources, are expected to provide immediate protection and support to IP-EHRDs whose lives, livelihood and property are in imminent danger.

SAGIBIN LN Quezon – Indigenous People’s Organization together with We Effect and Pakisama representatives                    Photo by: Kisha Beringuela

At the forefront of a nationwide campaign to safeguard the Sierra Madre mountains, the Dumagat-Remontado EHRDs tirelessly oppose the construction of the Kaliwa Dam, asserting their rights and protecting their ancestral lands for future generations.

As the DEFEND Project continues its vital work until 2025, it remains steadfast in its mission to empower indigenous communities and protect their ancestral domains. The ongoing threats to these territories, exemplified by the construction of the Kaliwa Dam, underscore the urgent need for collective action and support.

Pedro Carlos Baclagon discussing Defend Action goals                                                              Photo by Kisha Beringuela

By strengthening the capacities of Environmental Human Rights Defenders (EHRDs) within indigenous groups, the DEFEND Project not only safeguards their rights but also defends the rich biodiversity of these ancestral lands. Through capacity-building initiatives and collaborative efforts with civil society organizations, it aims to fortify the resilience of these communities against external pressures and encroachments.

Defend Action Discussion                                                                                                        Photo by: Kisha Beringuela

Watch the beginning of their DEFEND story here: