The following is from Bulatlat.
By LYN V. RAMO
MANILA — Indigenous peoples’ groups and rights advocates demonstrated again their opposition to the P52-billion Laiban dam project , which entails the construction of a 113-meter high water reservoir to “augment the water supply in the metropolitan area.”
Since Jan. 19, a group of Dumagats from Tanay, Rizal, has been camping out in front of the office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources along Visayas Avenue.
On Thursday, Feb. 25, the indigenous peoples’ groups held a dialogue with Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Diosdado Jose Allado. The MWSS is tasked to implement the project in partnership with San Miguel Corporation.
“We want to register our opposition to the Laiban Dam project and to know the status of the negotiations between MWSS and San Miguel,” Joan Jaime of the Network Opposed to Laiban Dam (NO to Laiban Dam) said at the start of the two-hour dialogue with Allado and five other officers and members of the MWSS board of trustees.
Jaime is national coordinator of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp), which is the national alliance of several indigenous peoples’ organizations across the country.
With Kamp and indigenous peoples’ leaders of affected communities in Tanay, Rizal, were representatives of the Katribu Partylist, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Kalikasan-Philippine Network for the Environment, CARE Foundation, Kalingap and members of the Catholic clergy.
These groups have been clamoring for a dialogue with government officials directly involved in the impending contract-signing for one month already.
“It is not true that there are no protesters to the dam project in Laiban,” said Nelson Mallari, Katribu Partylist third nominee.
MWSS officials admitted that “the dam project is not yet canceled and, in fact, is being processed.” The environmental compliance certificateremains pending with the DENR. The free, prior informed consent as required by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act is yet to be obtained from the concerned Dumagat villages.
MWSS deputy administrator Isaias Bongar said that once evaluated by the consultant, the proposal for the Laiban dam goes to the technical working group. It passes the joint venture selection committee, which would recommend subsequent action to the board of trustees. Bongar heads the committee.
“Aside from utterly destroying the ecosystems in the Sierra Madre, the Laiban Dam will also displace more than 20,000 indigenous peoples and peasants.” Mallari said. The large dam will submerge eight villages of mostly indigenous peoples in Tanay, Rizal and Gen. Nakar, Quezon.
Mallari pointed out that the opposition to the dam stems from the imminent displacement of indigenous culture which, he said, is deeply rooted in the utilization of the land and its resources, including bodies of water.
“The building of structures near bodies of water is restricted in our culture as indigenous peoples,” Mallari told the MWSS executives. He added that it would be desecration to build a dam that would stop the river from flowing and would trap precious water behind, inundating villages and farms.
Fr. Alfredo Albor of the CARE Foundation said the building of the dam would also endanger the marine ecosystem at the mouth of both Laguna de Bay and Manila Bay. It would destroy valuable mangroves, a fish spawning sanctuary and the 3,000-hectare Marikina watershed, said Albor.
Jaime also reminded Allado of the 28,000 hectares of arable and residential lands that would be inundated by the dam reservoir that would displace some 21,000 residents Dumagats and Remontados of Rizal and Quezon provinces.
“We will oppose the building of the dam to the end,” Mallari warned, citing economic displacement as well. “The river is our market. Even if we do not have money, we can get bountiful food daily,” he added.
On Friday, indigenous tribes of Dumagat and Remontado marched to the office of San Miguel Corp., demanding that the corporation pull out from the dam project.
The group said San Miguel has been lying to the Laiban-affected Dumagats. “We picketed this very office last year, and a representative assured us that they will not pursue the Laiban Dam Project. Yet, an official from the MWSS revealed that San Miguel is an active participant in the Laiban Dam negotiations and funding.” Mallari said.
Katribu accused the MWSS and San Miguel of connivance in drumbeating a “water crisis” to justify the dam construction. “It misleads the public into thinking that the solution to the water crisis is to build a large dam. In doing so, it places indigenous peoples in a vulnerable position,” Mallari said.
“The Laiban Dam Project will not ensure us affordable and reliable water service as San Miguel and MWSS claim. Because water has become private, profit comes before service,” Mallari said. “Affordable water will remain an elusive dream.”
The group warned against the impending “monopoly” of San Miguel of vital industries such as power and mining. “After dominating the food and beverage business, they have expanded to mining, such as in Mindoro. They also have a large share in Meralco. Now that they have their eyes on the water utilities, we could see an encroachment of a single family in all major industries,” Mallari said.
“We are strengthening our ranks and uniting with other sectors that would bear the adverse effects of a large dam,” Mallari said. (With a report from Ronalyn V. Olea / bulatlat.com)
Article printed from Bulatlat: http://www.bulatlat.com/main
URL to article: http://www.bulatlat.com/main/2010/03/01/tribal-folk-oppose-laiban-dam-project-slams-connivance-between-mwss-san-miguel/
URLs in this post: