Development and Displacement

Session #6
Date: June 1, 2021

Key Topics: anti-dictatorship struggle; land and indigenous culture; structural adjustment policy in third world countries; World Bank

Presenter: Joel Rocamora, former Director of the Institute for Popular Democracy in the Philippines and former Lead Convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission under Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. Joel is joined by Scott Robinson, filmmaker of “Season of Thunder”, a documentary that depicted this campaign.

It was a struggle against the plan of the Marcos dictatorship and the World Bank to build 4 dams and inundate 100,000 indigenous people – forcing them to leave their farms. What the project would have affected were rice terraces built over a couple of thousand years, carved out of mountains. And in Igorot country, they bury their elders in caves on the mountainsides. The actual bodies of their ancestors would have been flooded by the dams.

The key elements of the struggle are many. First and foremost, it was a struggle of indigenous people using their community resources and traditions to fight against this 21st century project. Their traditional community organizations were strong – village-level organizations linked throughout the region. The strength of this social infrastructure stopped this project. Second, it got caught up in a nationwide struggle of the National Democratic Front and the New People’s Army against the Marcos dictatorship. Lastly, it succeeded because we were able to develop a campaign that went from the Cordillera where the epicenter of this fight to places like San Francisco—it went all over the world. What stopped it was the negative publicity it generated from many corners of the world.

By 1982, a couple of years after it was started, the World Bank pulled out its support of the project and haven’t seen the light of day since.

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