“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.?
Tribal groups believe the dam project would damage their communities. (Photo courtesy of Katribu Partylist)
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)