Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Vol. IV, No. 32 September 12-18, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
Colibangbang Dike: Unfulfilled Promises
rains late August caused cascading waters from three dams, the Ambuklao,
Binga, and San Roque Dams, to submerge almost the whole of Paniqui, Tarlac
in Central Luzon.
The Colibangbang earth dike, which was constructed to protect
Paniqui from floods, was damaged thereby allowing the floodwater to spill
into the town.
Doubly damaging to the residents is the fact that they have not yet
been paid for the lands that were gobbled up by the construction of the
Colibangbang earth dike in the 1980s.
AUBREY STA. CRUZ MAKILAN
Romy Rosete points to the damaged Colibangbang dike (left), while his neighbors - victimized by the flood - build temporary shanties on top of the dike. Photos by Aubrey Sta. Cruz Makilan
Tarlac - Heavy rains caused by typhoon Marce during the last week of
August submerged almost the whole of Paniqui, Tarlac. The floods caused by
typhoon “Marce” was so far the worst Tarlac has experienced according
to a resident. The floods left nine deaths in the province.
the height of the rains, excess water was released from Ambuklao Dam in
Benguet province, northern Philippines causing water to flow to Binga Dam.
When the water reached critical levels excess water was also
released from Binga Dam causing the overflow of water to San Roque Dam in
San Manuel, Pangasinan. Moncada, Tarlac served as the catch basin of San
Roque Dam when it reportedly released excess water thrice during the
The flood in Moncada flowed to Paniqui, Banawang, Sapang, and other
towns in Tarlac. It also affected Pangasinan, where many towns and cities
went under water for several days. Farmers in Paniqui believed that the
excess water from the three dams aggravated the flooding in their place.
Rosete, a resident of Brgy. Rang-ayan, told Bulatlat that the great
volume of the flood damaged the Colibangbang Dike, which is at the right
side of the Paniqui section of the Tarlac (River) Gerona-Paniqui-Moncada
(Left and Right) Earth dikes Project.
(Colibangbang in the local dialect means beautiful butterfly.)
Rosete said the water from the San Roque Dam could have increased the
current of the water when it joined the O’Donnell River extension in
Tarlac. Since the dike has never been cemented since its construction in
1989, the flood easily damaged about 500 meters of the Colibangbang earth
59, said that this was not the first time that portions of the
Colibangbang Dike were damaged.
The 1990 “killer earthquake” and mudflows caused by the 1991
Mt. Pinatubo eruption destroyed big portions of the dike.
Still, the government did not institute measures to strengthen the
dike such as reinforcing it with cement, according to Rosete.
the damage to the Colibangbang Dike, which caused flood waters to destroy
the houses of his neighbors, spared Rosete’s house.
Rosete’s house was built on a spoil site, which has the same
elevation as the dike. A spoil site is a place where soil dug out from a
silted river is dumped. Though temporarily saved from the flood, Rosete
worries that his lot would eventually be wiped out by future floods that
may overflow from the dike.
residents tried in vain to reinforce the dike with sandbags last August
25. When the dike was damaged at 1 a.m. of the next day, water flowed to
barangays (villages) Nipaco, Rang-ayan, Nancamarinan, Ventinilla,
Cabayaosan, Acuculao, Apulid, Colibangbang, San Isidro, Tablang and
Salumague. People living lower than the dike evacuated and built temporary
houses on top of the dike after the water submerged their houses. Carabaos,
goats, chickens, and other livestock were among the first to be brought to
the top of the dike.
Colibangbang earth dike failed to save the residents of Paniqui, Tarlac
from the flood.
But more hurting than the flood is the fact that residents, like
Rosete, had to give up part of their lands to pave the way for the
construction of the dike, which was supposed to protect their communities
And the worst part is, they have not yet been compensated for their
construction of the Tarlac (River) Gerona-Paniqui-Moncada Earth dikes
Project started in 1962 during the presidency of Diosdado Macapagal. The
Colibangbang Dike, which was part of the whole project, was completed in
farmers were told that the dike would prevent flood from going to the
kabayanan (town center).
The promise of preventing floods and guarantee of compensation,
under Executive Order 1035 issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos,
made the residents to agree to give up part of their lands to pave the way
for the construction of the dike.
one and a half decade has passed and they have not yet been compensated.
Rosete is just one of a thousand farmers in Paniqui with claims. The
claimants are from barangays Nancamarinan, Aguas, Balawang, Brillante,
Colibangbang, Nipaco and Rang-ayan.
used to own five hectares of agricultural land.
He had to give up 28,000 sq. m. for the dike. He has outstanding
claims amounting to about half a million pesos computed at the agreed upon
price of P17.06 per sq. m.
Rosete has not received a single centavo. A large portion of his remaining
lands was covered with lahar (volcanic mudflows) after the Mt. Pinatubo
eruption in 1991. He was left with less than a hectare of agricultural
land, which he was forced to mortgage to some well-off friends for
P15,000. Now, even the land where his house stands is part of the dike.
the landowner, became a farm worker. To augment the meager financial
support from his sons, two of whom are a policeman and security guard, he
sells the fruits of his mango trees. He sells his labor to other farmers.
Sometimes, he earns P120 a day (US$ 2.13) as a mower. “Halos tiis na
lang para mabuhay” (I just endure the hardships in order to survive), he
the name of the village where Rosete lives, Rang-ayan, is derived from the
root word rang-ay which means “prosperous life.” Obviously Rosete he
has never experienced prosperity throughout his life. In fact, he said
that 300 out of 400 families in their village have a family member working
abroad as contractual workers because of poverty. Even Rosete’s only
daughter, Joana, worked in a fast-food chain in Italy for two years.
Central Luzon regional office of the Department of Public Works and
Highways (DPWH) endorsed the provision of financial assistance for the
farmers, affected by the construction of the dike, to the agency’s
national office in Manila only on Oct. 18, 1999, a decade after the dike
was completed. The first batch of claimants in Rang-ayan is composed of 41
farmers, and the second batch, which includes Rosete, numbered around 50.
They would supposedly be given about P11 million and P9 million,
total claims, to include the compensation for affected farmers from other
barangays, would cost around P148 million.
But currently, only 1.2 percent of the amount has been released.
Rosete claimed that he has not yet benefited from the initial release.
Rosete said there were irregularities in the processing of the claims. He
claimed that the processing of claims, supervised by Valentin Velasco,
then barangay captain of Rang-ayan, was anomalous. Rosete filed formal
charges against Velasco and Dominador Montoya, said to be from the DPWH,
with the National Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Ombudsman
was disappointed when he heard an NBI agent saying, "Matinong tao
'yang si Montoya (Montoya is decent person)." The case filed by
Rosete with the Office of the Ombudsman was dismissed last February 20,
believed there was a whitewash.
a dialogue was held last April 13, 2004 between claimants and DPWH
personnel. The government officials present during the dialogue promised
to act on their complaints. It turned out to be an empty promise, Rosete
victims believe that influential and powerful persons may be blocking
their efforts at receiving just compensation or may be benefiting from the
money that should be rightfully theirs. Rosete said, “Kapag kinalaban mo
ang mga opisyal dito sa Tarlac, mahihirapan ka” (It would be hard for
you to go against government officials in Tarlac).
Rosete’s resolve does not waver. "'Yung maapi, wala ka na palang
kinatatakuta” (A person who is oppressed fears nothing).
found new hope with the Alyansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Tarlac (AMT), an
alliance of peasant associations in Tarlac. He became a member of AMT in
December last year and was elected as secretary of the local chapter in
After experiencing disappointments in their legal battles, the claimants are now exploring the meta-legal arena. Rosete now helps in organizing his fellow farmers not just within the confines of the compensation issue. Through their unified strength, he believes they will win future battles. Bulatlat