Leftists fear: Danding might use P 130-billion coco levy fund to finance Laiban dam project

Leftists fear: Danding might use P 130-billion coco levy fund to finance Laiban dam project

The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday said it is not discounting the possibility that business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco chair of San Miguel Corporation will use portions of the estimated P 130-billion coconut levy fund to finance the ambitious Laiban Dam project in Southern Tagalog region.

“The sum of all our fears is that Danding by hook or by crook will use portions of the P 130-billion coconut levy fund as capital for the grand revival and commencement of the anti-people and anti-environment Laiban dam project,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader said the controversial P 130-billion coconut levy fund which is currently locked in various legal cases before the Supreme Court and the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court remains in the disposal of SMC where Cojuangco maintains the biggest controlling stake.

Hicap asserted that the coconut levy funds which exacted from small coconut farmers during the Martial Law regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos were used to buy 446.45 million of SMC class A shares and 307.4 million class B shares of the largest food and beverage company in the country.

“The Supreme Court ruling declaring the P 130-billion as public funds and imbued with public interest prevents Cojuangco and his gangland in SMC and their partners in crime in and out of Malacañang cannot sell, dispose or present as collateral the small coconut farmers fund to foreign partners for the Laiban dam project,” Hicap insisted.

Pamalakaya said the campaign of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to convince the small coconut farmers to sell the 24 percent stake in SMC is part of “clearing” to pave way for the expansion of SMC and further empower it to enter into other deals such as the Laiban Dam project with the state-owned Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

“This is all part of the concessions granted by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Cojuangco in exchange for the political support of Ms Arroyo’s most prized and cherished crony in the person of Cojuangco,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said it has these last seven words for Malacañang and Cojuangco in connection with the coconut levy funds and the Laiban Dam project: “Do not touch the coconut levy funds.”

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya challenged all the presidential candidates in the May 2010 presidential elections to speak out against the looming joint venture between Cojuangco and MWSS to develop Laiban dam as alternative source of bulk water for Metro Manila.

The group lamented that leading presidential hopefuls have yet to issue an official statement regarding the P 52-billion ambitious Laiban dam project, which the fisherfolk leader said is awarded by Malacañang to Cojuangco in silver platter, being Ms Arroyo’s most cherished crony.

“We are extremely puzzled by the deafening silence of all presidential wannabes on this particular, yet mind-boggling and nerve wracking project of the original Pacman and the present occupant in Malacañang. The Filipino public is waiting for their official response on this gigantic and destructive water escapade of Danding and President Arroyo,” said Pamalakaya.

The group urged presidential candidates Senators Manny Villar, Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda and Mar Roxas, Vice President Noli de Castro and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro to reveal their views and personal assessment on the revived Laiban dam project that will entail the destruction of about 28,000 hectares of watershed area on the slope of Sierra Madre mountain range.

“The Cojuangco-MWSS Laiban dam deal is a lucid testimony that Danding is the certified no.1 crony and the most esteemed client of the Macapagal-Arroyo government. How the presidentiables would address or go about it is the top 64-dollar question at the moment,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said Bayan Muna party list Rep. Teodoro Casiño and Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, supported by six other militant lawmakers—Satur Ocampo and Neri Javier Colmenares of Bayan Muna, Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela party list and Rep. Joel Maglunsod of Anakpawis were the only members of Congress who have spoken all out against the project, adding that the two militant lawmakers this week filed a house resolution seeking an investigation on the P 52-billion Laiban dam deal between Cojuangco’s SMC and MWSS.

“If the presidentiables are really after the national and collective interest of the people, they will support the militant lawmakers’ resolution and will file the same resolution calling on the Senate to conduct its own inquiry against this highly secretive, anti-people and anti-environment deal,” the group said.

The dam will be built at the Kaliwa River Basin in Tanay. More than a week ago, SMC President Ramon Ang announced that the food and beverage conglomerate will tap Japanese investors for the 1 billion dollar Laiban dam project. Ang said one foreign partner will provide technical expertise, while the other foreign partner will provide the financial muscle for the project.

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