By Chocolate Moose Fernandez
Manila, Philippines-Militant groups opposed to the ambitious
P 52-billion Laiban dam project in Tanay, Rizal slammed newly appointed Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Eleazar Quinto for evading a dialogue with their leaders last Thursday.
Leaders of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog, Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Kasama-TK), Anakpawis party list and Katribu party list were scheduled to meet Sec. Quinto for the dialogue but the new secretary was not present prompting activists to temporarily blocked the entrance and exit gates of the environment office last week.
Pamalakaya vice-chair Salvador France said the letter urging Sec. Quinto to face the opposition groups to Laiban dam project was delivered on Jan.12, about 10 days before the scheduled meeting. The letter was received by the DENR receiving section on the same day.
“Secretary Quinto is evading the issue which is a matter of life and death to affected fisherfolk, farmers and indigenous communities. For the information of Mr. Quinto, Laiban dam project will directly displace 20,000 upland villagers,” France stressed.
The Pamalakaya leader added: “It seems to us that the P 52-B Laiban dam project between MWSS and San Miguel Corporation is a done deal and Sec. Quinto is compelled by the appointing authority to follow the anti-people multi-billion project. That’s the reason for the snub.”
France said the P 52 billion dam project was part of the exchange deal between Mrs. Arroyo and SMC chair Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, the group added.
Last week, officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) announced that the deal will with SMC will be sealed not later than March. MWSS administrator Diosdado Jose Allado said the government targets to award the project to largest food and beverage conglomerate upon the submission of necessary requirements.
Pamalakaya said to sow disunity and terror among indigenous people, the Armed Forces of the Philippines had stepped up its recruitment for Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) among the Dumagat and Remontado allocating 20 percent of its personnel for the indigenous peoples. The latter have long denounced this military scheme, saying CAFGU recruitment sows disunity among them.
Most villagers however continue to refuse joining the CAFGU believing that they are just being used by the military as a cannon fodder or shields for their counter-insurgency operations.
Military atrocities in the Southern Tagalog region peaked in 2000-2001 when 11 military battalions were deployed in the area, causing the displacement of about 220 indigenous families living in four provinces, including Rizal and Quezon.
The dam, when finished, will provide an average 1.89 billion liters of water a day for some 5.5 million residents of Metro Manila and surrounding provinces by 2015. The project will also include a hydropower plant to supply 25 megawatts of electricity. #