“Thousands of fisherfolk, farmers, and rural poor who depend on fishing and coconut farming will lose their livelihoods.”
By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA ROSA, Laguna – One of the Philippines’ largest corporations, San Miguel Corporation, is threatening to displace at least 3,000 people in Sariaya, Quezon with the plan to build an industrial zone in the area, according to progressive youth group Anakbayan Quezon.
According to the group, SMC is pushing through with its development projects in the area, including a coal-fired power plant that will encompass four barangays.
“More than 3,000 people will die of hunger courtesy of San Miguel Corporation,” Anakbayan Quezon stated in Filipino. “Thousands of fisherfolk, farmers, and rural poor who depend on fishing and coconut farming will lose their livelihoods.”
According to a report by Pinagkaisang Lakas ng Magbubukid sa Quezon (PIGLAS-Quezon), residents of sitio Tayawak, barangay Castañas were being forcefully evicted from their homes since July 6.
Aside from the coal-fired power plant, the company is planning to construct a tank farm, a brewery, a feedmill and cement griding plant, as well as pier and port facilities in Sariaya, particularly in barangays Castañas, Guisguis San Roque, Guisguis Talon, and Talaan Aplaya.
SMC has filed proposals to construct these projects as early as October 2016, but residents have repeatedly opposed these. As early as 2017, fisherfolk in Sariaya have stated that the power plant will come “at the cost of [their] right to livelihood and shelter.”
Under the current pandemic conditions, fisherfolk earn as little as P250 for a day’s catch. Meanwhile, Ramon S. Ang, president and CEO of San Miguel Corporation, has a net worth of P84 billion (US$ 1.7 billion) according to Forbes. It would take an average fisherman 1.54 million years to reach that same amount.
Environmentalists such as Rev. Fr. Warren Puno, Minister of Ecology director of the Diocese of Lucena, have also slammed the proposed Sariaya projects, citing anomalies in the process. In December 2018, the Provincial Board of Quezon approved the SMC projects after Governor Danilo Suarez wrote to the board asking for the passage of a resolution.
Puno, however, disputed the process and alleged that SMC gave each board member ‘grease money’ amounting to P1 and 2 million, which the provincial board denied.
Anakbayan said the residents have been experiencing harassment from he police and military “in service of SMC.” Police and military agents, the group said, have repeatedly intimidated residents and accused them of “harboring injured [members of the New People’s Army].”
“It is clear that these operations are part of their aims to evict residents and help SMC achieve their aims,” Anakbayan Quezon asserted. “It is clear that the AFP and PNP are serving capitalist interests, and not the people it promised to serve.”
Reports from as early as January 2019 revealed that residents in barangay Guisguis San Roque and barangay Castañas have experienced harassment stemming from police and military presence in the area. Anakbayan Quezon fears that with the incoming effectivity of the Anti-Terrorism Law, the “attacks would continue against the residents of Sariaya.”
SMC is also planning on building a cement plant, a 1.2MW CFB power plant, a deep sea port, a dressing plant, slaughterhouse, a ready-to-eat plant, as well as a logistics center and quarry in Pagbilao. Both initiatives are part of the Duterte administration’s “Build Build Build” program.