By Mariona Tarrats Farré
Barcelona, Spain, Jun 5 (EFE).- Cynthia Deduro, an exiled Filipino activist, is calling on the Philippine government to halt all construction works of a 109-meter high dam on the Jalaur River because it is forcing indigenous inhabitants out of the area.
The authorities do not have the consent of the indigenous communities inhabiting the area, says Deduro, who is living in exile in Germany and has been defending the rights of her country’s indigenous people for more than 50 years.
Deduro’s interview with Efe came during her trip to the Spanish city of Barcelona for the second edition of the women human rights defenders, a conference organized by International Action for Peace and the Catalan Association for Peace.
Although she has no indigenous ancestry, the 70-year-old, who is originally from Panay Island, where the river is located, has dedicated all her life to defending the rights of indigenous communities in the Philippines.
The Jalaur River area, Deduro explains, is inhabited by communities that depend on the land’s resources to survive.
The construction proposal for the dam was submitted in 2009 but the indigenous people were not informed until 2011 when the activist decided to establish the Indigenous Peoples’ Network in Panay.
When the inhabitants found out, they started protesting and managed to delay the work for eight years, she adds.
Deduro assures that indigenous populations are in danger because they are being expelled from their ancestral land.
This is not the first time that the indigenous people of the area have been forced to fight for their lands, she continues, pointing out that at present stopping the dam project is her main concern.
In December 2020, the Philippine police killed nine indigenous people after they protested against the dam construction, Deduro recalled.
Deduro has been an activist for years but her work has been disrupted several times by arrests and prison sentences.
In 1974, she was arrested for the first time and imprisoned for a year and five months. She recalls she was sent to her cell blindfolded and suffered mental torture there.
She was also detained for 10 months in 1989, along with her husband.
Since October 2021, Deduro has resided in Germany with her husband to avoid further problems with the authorities, she says. EFE