Privatized Water: Profit over Welfare

March 12, 2017

by IBON Foundation

A Forum on Water Privatization, Large Dams, and Indigenous Peoples

In commemoration of International Day of Action Rivers against Large Dams


Water is very essential to support peoples’ basic needs and should be free, safe, and accessible to the people. It has a vital role in the country’s agricultural development and national industrialization. To ensure these, the government should take full control and responsibility over utilizing and developing water resources for the benefit of the majority.

Water privatization and exploitation of the country’s water resources through national policies such as the National Water Resources Act and the National Renewable Energy Act facilitates the entry and domination of private businesses in the water sector. International Financial Institutions such as the Korean Export Import Bank, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and World Bank through Official Development Aid (ODA) and big foreign and local corporations are encouraged to invest in water and energy. This paved the way to the influx of hydropower projects that privatize water resources.

In the country, one of the concrete manifestations of monopoly and control of water resources are hydropower projects and large dams owned and controlled by few companies owned by Aboitiz, Ayala, Lopez, and others. Former state-owned large dams are now in the hands of these corporations. These companies were also key players in the building of new dams, mainly for the purpose of producing electricity.

Indigenous peoples, peasants and other sectors in the countryside have suffered the effects of the construction and operation of large dams. Existing large dam projects such as those in Pantabangan, Binga, Ambuclao, Casecnan, San Roque and Pulangi, have resulted in displacement and loss of land and livelihood of indigenous peoples’ communities. It disrupted or destroyed the cultural practices of communities, including communal fishing, which is a traditional ritual for several indigenous peoples groups. At present, there are more than 410 hydropower projects approved by the Department of Energy and National Irrigation Administration situated in rivers within indigenous peoples’ territories.

The Duterte’s administration continuous to implement neoliberal policies that include the privatization of water resources and related services.

In the forum, indigenous peoples, advocates and other stakeholders will discuss issues concerning the water privatization policy and large dams, express their concerns, issues and aspirations, and strive to come up with a unified position regarding large dams.