On this International Day of Action for Rivers, the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera stand united with people around the world in celebrating the invaluable significance of rivers in sustaining life. Rivers are a lifeblood of our planet, providing water for drinking, agriculture, industry, and transportation while also supporting diverse ecosystems and cultures.

But our rivers face numerous threats that endanger not only their health but the well-being of millions of people who depend on them for their livelihoods and sustenance.

Our rivers in the Cordillera region have long been targets for hydroelectric power generation. The Department of Energy has awarded 100 hydro projects for development in the region. This includes the Apayao and Saltan Rivers, including their tributaries, with eight hydro dam projects totaling 885 megawatts in Apayao River and five dams totaling 139.4 MW in Saltan River in Kalinga province. Situated in the ancestral lands of Indigenous peoples, these projects are meeting strong community resistance.

In addition, six to eight dam projects are slated for development on the Chico River, five on the Pasil River, and one or two on the Siffu River.

The Saltan and Pasil river area form part of the Banao Protected Landscape also known as the Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park, a globally declared Key Biodiversity Area. Hence, the dam projects proposed on these rivers endanger this globally significant area.

We support our partner peasant organization Alyansa Dagiti Pesante Ti Taeng Kordilyera (APIT TAKO) in helping and uniting with Indigenous Peoples’ communities in defending their rivers against these hydroelectric power projects.

We also urge the government to look for alternatives to hydroelectric power projects that are not destructive to communities and genuinely respond to their needs, such as micro-hydropower facilities.

It is our collective responsibility to protect and restore our rivers for present and future generations. This requires our concerted efforts to promote sustainable water management practices, preserve river ecosystems, uphold the rights of Indigenous communities and river-dependent people, and mitigate the impacts of climate change. On this day, we reaffirm our commitment to defend and protect our rivers. Let our rivers flow freely.