26 February 2010
Environmental activists and indigenous people under the Network Opposed to Laiban Dam (NO to Laiban Dam) held a protest action in front of the main office of Danding Cojuangco-owned San Miguel Corporation (SMC) denouncing the efforts of the company to push through with the controversial Laiban Dam project in Rizal province.
“If integrity and social responsibility, San Miguel Corporation’s supposedly company values, mean anything to SMC, then they should withdraw their proposal to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Systems (MWSS) for the joint development of the Laiban Dam project, ” said Meggie Nolasco of Kalikasan PNE and convenor of NO to Laiban Dam alliance.
Ms. Nolasco expressed that, “The Laiban Dam project, aside from being very expensive and environmentally dangerous, does not and will not have a social license to operate. The indigenous people Dumagat and Remontados, local government officials and environmentalists will relentlessly oppose the project because we believe it will do more harm than good to our communities and the environment.”
The government already expended around Php755 million pesos for feasibility studies and the pre-construction phase of the said dam since 1970’s. However, the US$ 1 billion project has been postponed several times already by different administrations because of issues on social impacts, corruption, lack of funding, technicalities and strong local opposition.
While indigenous people, environmental and other groups have long expressed their opposition to the project, local government units and officials in the municipalities of Real, Nakar and Infanta in Quezon and Tanay in Rizal provinces have also signified their disapproval through municipal resolutions.
“We are confident that the Laiban dam project will again be deferred such as what happened in the past and will not push through under the Arroyo administration, an added indication for SMC to abandon the project completely,” said Ms. Nolasco.
Kalikasan PNE, along with several affected residents, NO to Laiban Dam, Katribu Partylist, Water for the People Network (WPN) and other groups held a dialogue with MWSS and DENR officials last February 19 and 25 to register the arguments and position against the dam’s construction and gather firsthand the status of the project.
According to Ms. Nolasco, “Based on our dialogue with MWSS Administrator Diosdado Jose Allado, there will be able no contract signing with SMC during the first quarter of this year, contrary to what was reported in the news. In addition to the lack of funds, MWSS is still in the process of completing the requirements and studying the proposal submitted by SMC.”
One important requirement that is still lacking is the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) as disclosed by DENR Assistant Director for Public Affairs Office Hiro Masuda in another dialogue. Joan Jaime spokesperson of NO to Laiban Dam stated that there is still no ECC issued to MWSS regarding the Laiban Dam project since the DENR denied processing it in 2008.
Jaime insisted that, “There are alternatives to Laiban Dam to solve the growing water demand in Metro Manila. By just improving existing water infrastructures and services we can already provide more than 1,000 million liters per day (MLD) which is more than the projected water needs in the next five years. Several studies also cite that the Laguna Lake and Wawa Watershed Area can provide more than enough of our water supply in the coming decades.”
“Water has become more costly and inaccessible since the government’s response to the water crisis is to let profit-driven companies like San Miguel Corporation take control over our water resources. Privatization resulted to exorbitant water rates, poor services, massive retrenchment of water district workers and displacement of marginalized sectors in their communities,” Jaime said.
“We demand that SMC pull out from the Laiban dam project and that MWSS fulfill its mandate of providing clean and economical water to Metro Manila residents, but not at the cost of the environment and the right of the residents and indigenous people to their ancestral lands.”
Meggie Nolasco, Public Information Officer, Kalikasan-PNE
Joan Jaime, spokesperson, NO to Laiban Dam