Barely two weeks after the devastating floods and controversial dam releases of Typhoon Pepeng, various groups from Metro Manila, Quezon, and Rizal are bracing themselves for their own battle against the construction of yet another giant dam.
In a press conference held today, various groups headed by the Save Sierra Madre Network (SSMN) called on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to issue an executive order scrapping the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Services’ (MWSS) proposed 113-meter high Laiban Dam Project.
In the same press conference co-organized with the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), the group revealed their plans for a nine-day march to dramatize their protest and to gather support from policy makers and the public against the dam project. The protest march, which will run from November 4 to November 12, has been dubbed “Lakad Laban sa Laiban Dam,” and will involve a grueling 148-km march from General Nakar in Quezon Province to Malacañang. One hundred marchers are set to complete the entire length of the march, consisting of representatives from the indigenous peoples, farmers, women, rural workers, youth and religious sector. Among the scheduled stops is the MWSS office in Balara, Quezon City.
The groups stressed that the proposed dam project is anti-environment, anti-development and anti-human rights.
The dam reservoir of 28,000 hectares is set to displace 4,413 families from seven barangays. Legally-protected rainforest areas housing endemic and endangered species are set to be buried underwater as part of the dam reservoir area, along with areas being claimed as ancestral lands by the Dumagats and Remontados.
In addition, the groups underscored that should the dam break or be made to release sudden bursts of large water volumes, a repeat of the destructive flood in Northern Quezon in November 2004 can result to unimaginable catastrophes. These fears are said to be further aggravated by the dam site’s proximity to the active Marikina fault zone.
According to the group, Metro Manila’s consumers would bear the brunt of the costs for the project, which is presently the most expensive water supply project of the MWSS to date. The hefty price tag of $1B is also expected to hike up to almost $2B due to delays and huge cost over-runs, which are typical of large dam construction.
Better alternatives to the Laiban Dam do exist, the groups claimed.
They added that one of the most viable alternatives is to restore denuded forests in Angat, Ipo and La Mesa watersheds. In addition, the government must intensify the anti-logging campaign and rehabilitate existing watershed such as the Wawa Watershed to increase water flow. Furthermore, another simple and economical option is to reduce the demand for water coupled with improvement of the efficiency of the Manila Water and Maynilad by reducing their non-revenue water levels which translate to water wastage.
The groups said that the destruction that inundated the Northern and Central Luzon because of large dams must convince the government and the public that it is both necessary and possible to put an end to the construction of destructive large dams.
Since large dams have proven to be disastrous to the communities and the environment, all plans of the government to construct monstrous dams must be abandoned immediately, said the group.
Abandon the Laiban Dam, A Position Paper of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, August 2009, http://www.fdc.ph/