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Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. IV,    No. 37               October 17 - 23, 2004             Quezon City, Philippines











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Pangasinan Peasants Re-occupy Land Near Controversial Dam

Deprived of their income and land first by a quarry site and subsequently by the construction of the San Roque Multipurpose Dam, the impoverished peasants started reclaiming the land they used to till.

By Lyn V. Ramo 
Northern Dispatch

Posted by Bulatlat

SAN MANUEL, Pangasinan - More than 25 families started clearing the 56-hectare estate near the San Roque Multipurpose Dam (SRMD) in Sitio Cadanglaan in Brgy.  Narra in San Manuel, Pangasinan last September. 

They are poor peasants who re-occupied the idle land which used to be their farm before a government flagship project took it away from them in the late 1990s. 

They are former tenants of a certain Luis Calpatora, whose heirs say that they failed to reach an agreement with the National Power Corporation (NPC) regarding the amount to be paid for the land.  The NPC reportedly offered P100 per sq. m. which the Calpatora heirs refused.  The settlement, the peasants say, is now left for the courts to decide. 

It was only the tenants’ improvements which got government compensation when the construction started in 1997.

Some of the returning peasants were resettled at the Camangaan Resettlement Site in Brgy. San Roque.  Others opted for self-relocation and settled in Sitio Cavite in Brgy. Narra.

The peasants whose fields were devastated by raging floodwaters from the dam’s floodgates decided to shift to planting squash and upo (gourd) which they said could yield an alternative income for their respective families.  

Since the first week of September, upon the advice of the estate administrator the peasants started clearing the land and planting seeds that some seedlings have started to geminate at some portions at the time of the Northern Dispatch (Nordis) visit. 

No trespassing

Signs indicating that the piece of land is private property have been planted along the property boundaries.  This invited the attention of the dam security forces who visited the peasants on September 17 questioning the “No Trespassing” sign.  One of the peasants, however, challenged the security guard’s instance and asked him to leave them alone, instead.

Doming Aquijo recalled that it was poor peasants from Sitio Cavite who developed Cadanglaan in the early 1990s when super typhoon Trining brought floods to their community.  They evacuated to a higher place near the bank of the Agno River which they call Ano, Aquijo told this reporter. 

Because it took the families several months before they were able to return to Sitio Cavite, the makeshift houses they built during the typhoon became semi-permanent farm houses.  People started clearing the place of the bushes they call dangla, thus the name Cadanglaan was coined.

Some of the fields used to be planted with rice and other crops such as vegetables. Before the dam construction, people trooped to the riverbanks in Sitio Cadanglaan to pan for gold dusts.  The movement of machineries, heavy equipment and quarry materials deprived residents from gold-panning activities. 

In 2001, Cadanglaan was a sea of gravel and river stones.  It was too noisy and hot because of the sound of machines and heavy equipment which competed with the sound of a conveyor belt and that of the crushing plant.  Residents were barred from entering the area to prevent being caught by the machines. 

Cadanglaan was transformed into a quarry site complete with a conveyor belt for quarrying activities.  When the dam was completed and the conveyor belt, crushers and other edifices had to be dismantled, the area served as a dumping site for industrial wastes such as scrap iron and wood, rubber and others that had to be buried deep into the earth. 

For a time, Cadanglaan was teeming with scavengers among the San Manuel peasants who resorted to getting scrap materials from the dumping sites to eke out a living, until SRPC and NPC officials prohibited it last year.   The elements exposed and reburied the garbage in areas the peasants could not locate. 

The area is now vegetated with weeds, most of which are like the touch-me-nots the locals call mimosa.  There were no more dangla, an aromatic herb used by locals as an expectorant. Bulatlat



© 2004 Bulatlat  Silang Publications

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