[COMMUNITY REPORT] Alanib River: Deprivations, assertions over abuse of water (Second of three parts)
By Aki L. Saway
SONGCO, Lantapan, Bukidnon (BukidnonNews.Net/19 January 2022) During the dry season, farmers need water for their farms. In order to sustain their high-value crops, they use hoses to tap water from Alanib river.
Some native farmers have practiced this but there are only a few of them. Most of the indigenous peoples are worried on what could happen to Alanib, sacred and ancestral river of the Talaandig tribe of Mindanao.
As times go by, settlers migrated to our territory. Due to the influx of modernization and change, rise in population, intermarriages, leasing and selling of lands, it has become unavoidable that more and more farmers would tap water from the river. It went unnoticed that the river’s water level was reduced through the years until it dried up.
Consequently, people who lived in the lower areas of Lantapan experienced difficulty accessing water to drink, to wash clothes, and even to take a bath because water no longer flowed from their faucets. It has also affected the livestock because Alanib was their main source of water.
Some of the farmers tapped from the main water line, which was intended for household consumption. It was meant only for drinking, bathing, washing of food and clothing, among others. Specially during summer, Alanib River dries up completely affecting villages and barangays in the lower areas.
As the Talaandig community upstream has struggled to protect Alanib River, there was no doubt that the people who were deprived of access to water downstream also felt anger and disappointment.
It was challenging for the affected residents to stop violaters especially those who have already gained from tapping water from Alanib River to irrigate their farms. Indeed, it would be hard for neighbors to call out the tappers, who will find it very inconvenient to stop the practice and risk losing their farms. Administrators have to be very brave to implement regulations that are violated by wealthy personalities.
The Talaandigs are not protecting the river only for their own sake. Our tribe also looks at equity – to be fair to all. Our elders know we are not the only ones who need water. We know the settlers, too, are affected. For us, it in unthinkable that only a few families and corporations take advantage of the river’s bounty.
The drying of Alanib river has affected not only some but all people who depended on it. A river is an ecosystem. Residents in the lower areas raised their concern about it. Indeed, people have shortcomings. In fact, connecting hoses to tap water from the river without permission is illegal. It violates laws imposed by government on access of water resources such as but not limited to Presidential Decree No. 1067, s. 1976, which instituted the Water Code of the Philippines. But some people’s selfish intents make them ignore these laws. Even if they know it is illegal, they still choose to continue tapping water from the river.
Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 is the legal basis. As violators, illegal tappers trespass on the duty of the government and the rights of the Talaandigs, through the Talaandig Administration, over their ancestral waters.
The IPs’ water rights
The IPRA Law said “the state shall recognize, respect, protect and promote the rights of Indigenous People’s”. The law also recognizes the indigenous peoples’ Native Title Rights, Ancestral Domains and Waters, Customs and Traditions, Beliefs, Self-governance, Customary Law, Indigenous Knowledge, Systems and Practices.
Based on the law, anyone who enters the ancestral domain covered by Native Title, planning to use or benefit from the resources therein must strictly observe Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) with the Tribal Administrators of the particular Indigenous Cultural Community.
In terms of permission to use the resources, there is no exemption even to members of the Talaandig people.
The drying of Alanib River has affected many, most especially the First Peoples’ of the area, the Talaandig tribe. By using water for agricultural and business purposes without the permission of administrators, the tappers did not observe Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). In some cases, the IPs experience discrimination from settlers.
In our culture, we put much importance to mutuality of actions: mutual recognition and respect (kilalaha), mutual sharing of information (sayuda), cooperation (buliga), mutual protection and preservation of life (uyaga), and mutual obligation to help the needy (pagbatunbauna). All of this because of our intent for peace.
The kinship doctrine and customary law, however, have been violated when attempts and warnings of preventing illegal tappers were ignored.
Anyway, if they don’t change their ways, we know that ignorance of the law excuses no one.
After the river became dry, everything has changed. The faucets are empty. We have difficulty finding water to drink, for bathing, and washing. Even the animals are thirsty. We wondered why? What caused the Alanib River to dry up?
This caused a lot of worries to our elders. I felt sad myself but I felt their sadness is deeper. They are more concerned about the future of our people.
As usual, we can only resort to seek the guidance of our ancestors and our elders. To the words of two esteemed elders, I resonate:
“Our culture is connected to nature; we follow the law of nature. I want the youth to participate and ask me questions regarding our culture and the law of nature because if they didn’t do, they will become lost.”
“In using the resources such as water, on the perspective of the Great Creator, the most powerful being, no one should be deprived.”
As custodians of our ancestral waters, hope and courage has awakened us.
NEXT: Exploring dialogue in community water resources management
((Talaandig youth leader Aki or Nalandangan Mabantog L. Saway is an AB Sociology graduate from Xavier University. He works as an assistant of a law firm and is now a law student. Aki contributed this piece to “Community Report”, as volunteer from the Talaandig community to the Community Documentation and Reporting platform of BukidnonNews.Net. Email email@example.com for comments.)
IN PHOTO: Water flows from a hose among those tapping water from Alanib River for farming. The situation is a complete opposite in the residences, where there is no water for household use.
File photos by Aki L. Saway