Contested Consent: Untangling the Tensions between the State and Customary Indigenous Law in the Kaliwa Dam Project in the Philippines

Miss Jore-Annie Rico1

1The University Of Sydney, Camperdown, Australia

This paper critically analyses the contestations between the State and customary indigenous laws through a case study of the proposed construction of the Kaliwa Dam located at Quezon Province in the Philippines. The essay begins by providing an overview of the Kaliwa Dam Project and the Dumagat indigenous group, whose legally-recognised ancestral domains lie within the Kaliwa River Basin. To situate the tensions underpinning the State and the Indigenous Peoples, the paper focuses on the role of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) as a tool in safeguarding indigenous rights. Despite the centrality of the FPIC in Philippine domestic and international legal commitments, the study argues that the State itself has circumvented the FPIC process, thus undermining the customary laws and rights of the Dumagats. Finally, the essay invites critical reflection on the creeping phenomenon of damming of indigenous domains in Asia as well as the lessons that can be gleaned from indigenous resistance and resilience exhibited by the Dumagat indigenous peoples.


Jore-Annie Rico is currently pursuing Master of Human Rights at The University of Sydney as an Australia Awards scholar. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of the Philippines Manila in 2014. Her research interests include the nexus among human rights, poverty, gender, and governance.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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