Category Archives: Laguna Lake

Supreme Court told: Go easy on Manila Bay clean up

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Portnip Pakangcharap and Bb. Joyce Cabral

MANILA, Philippines- Slow down please.
THE left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday said Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona and 14 other justices should go easy in pushing its decision on Manila Bay clean up following reports that government agencies and local government units which have clinched deals with private investors are using the decision on Manila Bay rehabilitation to remove fisherfolk and urban poor have them replaced with projects financed by private interests.

Pamalakaya vice chairperson for Luzon Salvador France issued the statement hours after chief Justice Corona and 3 other SC justices joined the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in inspecting the cleanup of Manila Bay this morning.

Joining SC chief justice Corona in the inspection were SC associate justices Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo and Jose Perez with DENR Secretary Ramon Paje. They boarded on PCG Vessel BRP EDSA II that passed through the Pasig River and the Manila Bay area and off Navotas City and SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

“We strongly urge Chief Justice Corona and 4 other SC justices to exercise extreme prudence in enforcing their decision on Manila Bay rehabilitation. People and groups with vested interests to private Manila Bay are taking advantage and are using this landmark ruling to effectively eject the fishing people and urban poor folks opposed to Palace’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) escapades in Manila Bay and adjacent rivers, tributaries including Laguna Lake,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

“The SC decision putting weight on the demolition of fishing communities and urban poor structures along Manila Bay and its interlocking tributaries that would include the whole of Pasig River and Laguna Lake is not only unfair but also revolting. It is a grand massacre of social justice and people’s rights,” France added.

Voting 11-4, the high tribunal two weeks ago instructed the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) until Dec. 31, 2015 to remove illegal structures along river banks and waterways connected to the bay.

“On or before June 30, 2011, the MMDA shall submit its plan for the removal of said informal settlers and the demolition of the aforesaid houses, structures, constructions and encroachments, as well as the completion dates for said activities, which shall be fully implemented not later than December 31, 2015,” the SC said.

The decision also gave the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and local governments in Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan provinces until Dec. 31, 2012 to demolish illegal settlements near river banks.

In its en banc resolution issued last Feb. 15, the SC noted that while some parties may view its orders as an encroachment on the powers of the executive branch, its Dec. 18, 2008 ruling “is but an integral part of the adjudicative function of the Court.”

But Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap dismissed the decision of the high tribunal as “injustice to the highest order”.

“The Supreme Court notion of environmental protection and rehabilitation is too narrow yet socially costly to the people and it puts the people of Manila Bay and Laguna Lake under heavy attack and endless dispossession of livelihood and extreme denial of housing rights. The 11 justices who voted on the decision forgot there are more than more than five million people, mainly fisherfolk and jobless and economic starving folks residing along Manila Bay and Laguna Lake communities. The decision is an across-the-Manila Bay and across-the-Laguna Lake tragedy,” said Hicap.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., the high court said “it is clear that the final judgment includes not only what appears upon its face to have been so adjudged but also those matters ‘actually and necessarily included therein or necessary thereto.’ Certainly, any activity that is needed to fully implement a final judgment is necessarily encompassed by said judgment.”

In December 2008, the SC dismissed the petitions filed by several government agencies asking the court to overturn the Court of Appeals September 2005 ruling upholding a Cavite trial court’s ruling. In that ruling, the Cavite court ordered the government agencies to clean-up Manila Bay and make it suitable for public bathing and swimming, and for catching milkfish and other similar fish species.

The Manila Bay Advisory Committee (MBAC) has recently reported to the SC that there were several setbacks in monitoring the implementation of its December 2008 decision. These include the lack of government agencies’ uniform manner of reporting their cleanup, rehabilitation, and preservation activities. Because of such problems the SC ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to submit until June 30, 2011 its updated operation plan for the Manila Bay cleanup.

The high court also gave the DENR until Sept. 30, 2011 to submit the names and addresses of persons and companies in Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, and Bataan that generate toxic and hazardous waste.

The Manila Bay clean up decision has put to task the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to order all local government heads in Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan and Bataan to inspect all factories, commercial establishments and residences along the banks of the Pasig-Marikina-San Juan rivers, the Navotas-Malabon-Tullahan-Tenejeros rivers, the Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando (Bulacan) rivers, the Talisay (Bataan) River, the Imus (Cavite) River, and the Laguna de Bay, and other minor rivers and waterways that eventually discharge water into the Manila Bay.

The heads of the concerned local government units were given until the end of September this year to complete their respective inspections.

But Pamalakaya’s Hicap said the SC decision will be used by the government and their partners in crime in the private sector to effectively full-blast commercialization of Manila Bay and Laguna Lake under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) republic of the Aquino administration, which started during the time of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos up to the present administration of President Arroyo is the main reason the 190-kilometer bay is on the brink of general collapse.

“Please allow us to state the real score on Manila Bay. Eighty percent of the untreated water wastes that are thrown or dumped into the bay come from industries and commercial establishments situated along the bay. The reclamation activities of the government that began during the Marcos era up and which continue at present are also destroying Manila Bay and have prevented the ecosystem and marine life from regenerating,” Pamalakaya stated.

“We are not happy with the way the national government is treating Manila Bay. We are being blamed for its deterioration. Why us? We are not destroyers of natural resources and marine environment. We cannot destroy our main source of livelihood. It is impossible for us to do that, because destroying Manila Bay is like destroying our basis for existence. In fact, the fisherfolk are long running victims here of corporate exploitation and capital accumulation,” the group said.

The militant group said about 20,000 hectares of Manila Bay waters have been subjected to reclamation to pave way for the construction of special economic zones in Bataan and Cavite, the commercial spaces presently occupied by Manila Film Center, the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) Building in Pasay City, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Folk Arts Theater in Manila, and the SM Mall of Asia and other commercial companies in Pasay City.

Pamalakaya complained that while the government and the Supreme Court are blaming the fisherfolk and the urban poor over the deterioration of Manila Bay, the Philippine government and the DENR had upheld proposals of the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to develop the 90-hectare reclaimed casino and resort complex in Manila Bay.

On top of the $-15 billion casino project to be constructed along Manila Bay, Pamalakaya said the DENR had granted ECC to the ambitious Cavite Coastal Road Project II that would involve reclamation of more than 8,000 hectares of coastal waters along Manila Bay from Bacoor to Cavite City.

Pamalakaya said close to 3 million coastal people in Metro Manila and Cavite are still dependent on fishing as a principal source of livelihood, and any move to transform or convert Manila Bay for other purposes like the $15-billion casino project and the Cavite Phase II Coastal Road project will have a killing impact on the livelihood of small fishermen, aside from the fact that they would be demolished from their communities, once construction of support structures and establishments begins.

“From 1992 to 1995, the demolitions of coastal shanties became an everyday ordeal in Pasay Reclamation area. Houses were uprooted almost daily. Small and big time bribery to divide the communities were conducted to facilitate the demolition of coastal communities,” the group said.

The setting up of casino and resorts, including SM’s Mall of Asia was included in the master plan of the government known as Manila Bay Master Development Plan that officially started during the time of President Ramos and projected to end between 2020 and 2025.

Pamalakaya recalled that 3,500 small fisherfolk in Pasay Reclamation Area and another 3,000 coastal and urban poor families along the coastal shores of Parañaque were evicted by the government of former President Fidel Ramos to pave way for the construction of the proposed casino that would make the Philippines the Las Vegas of Asia.

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Fishers swimming with fish, but income went down further

By Sarsi Pimentel, Rey Manangan, Lady Michelle Adobe and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines- Laguna Lake fishermen are reportedly swimming with fish nowadays, bringing home as much as 100 kilos per fishing trip but their income dropped to all time low.

The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday said fisherfolk in Laguna Lake are literally and figurative swimming with fish particularly big head, milkfish and tilapia due to rainy season and the overflow of some of fish pens in the 94,000 hectare brackish lake water.

But Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said despite the bounty harvest over the last four weeks or one month, the small fisherfolk of Laguna Lake are wallowing in poverty because the farm gate price of fish in the lake was drastically cut by 1,000 to 25,000 percent per kilo of whatever water products fished from the lake.

The Pamalakaya official who went to Binangonan fish port over the weekend to check farm gate prices of fish said he was shocked to learn that the farm gate price of big head (sometimes called or mistaken as maya-maya) is now P 1 per kilo compared to previous farm gate price of P 25 per kilo or a drop of 24,000 percent.

“One fisherman whom we interviewed last week said his catch was 145 kilos and he only received P 145 for the entire catch or P 1 per kilo. He spent 5 liters of gasoline or P 230 and lost 85 pesos. This is unfair, very unfair,” added France.

The Pamalakaya official said in the aftermath of typhoon Basyang, fish traders buying milkfish in Laguna Lake fish ports buy milkfish at a rate of P 10 per kilo, one of the lowest in the history of fish trading in the lake.

Cartel blamed

France blamed the fish cartel operating in Laguna Lake for the low price of fisherfolk harvests. He said prior to typhoon Basyang, farm gate prices of bangus and big head are pegged at average prices of P 40 and P 20 per kilo respectively. Pamalakaya said fish traders are making huge profits by selling milk fish at P 80 per kilo and big head at 40 per kilo to fish retailers.

The group said aside from unscrupulous fish traders, multinational oil companies are largely to blame for the rock bottom drop in the income of Laguna Lake fishermen because of perpetual hikes and high rise cost of petroleum products used by small fisherfolk.

“The small fisherfolk are exploited, the fish eating public is summarily abused by the fish cartel operating like a long-running syndicate in Laguna Lake. We ask Gov. Junjun Ynares of Rizal, Gov. EJ Ejercito of Laguna and the mayors of Laguna Lake in Rizal and Laguna and National Capital Region to investigate this perpetual exploitation of Laguna Lake fishers and the consuming public and stop this 24 hour, seven day exploitation,” said Pamalakaya.

Collective petition

Pamalakaya said they will file a collective petition before the governor offices of Ynares and Ejercito and the rest of the local government units surrounding the lake to raise the farm gate price of milkfish by an average of P 40 to P 50 per kilo and big head by an average of P 20 per kilo to compensate with the high rising cost of production in fishing.

The militant group said 80 percent of the production cost goes to diesel and gasoline per fishing trip. Pamalakaya said their leaders in the national office and their chapters around the lake are willing to dialogue and come face to face with members of the fish cartel to discuss this problem of six feet below ground prices of fish products in Laguna Lake.

Income of small fishers in Laguna Lake has drastically reduced over the last 15 years due to diminishing fish catch, increasing prices of petroleum products and low farm gate prices. From a high of 10 to 15 kilos of average catch per day, today’s prevailing fish catch is pegged between 3 kilos to 5 kilos per day and income dropped at all time low from P 500 to P 1,000 per fishing trip to P 50 to P 150 per fishing trip.

The militant group clarified that despite their demand for the increase in farm gate prices, fish traders could still enjoy at least P 20 gross profits and could still sell milkfish in the market at P 70 per kilo and big head at P 40 per kilo which are lower compared to the prevailing price of milkfish at P 100 to P 120 per kilo and big head which can still be sold at P 50 per kilo which is way below the prevailing market price of P 80 to P 100 per kilo.

“Our proposal will give small fisherfolk decent income and at the same time will give the consuming public a cheaper price for fishery products,” said Pamalakaya. (With reports from Handog Malaya Vera and Billy Javier Reyes) #

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Manila lawmakers tasked to review water crisis

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Bb. Joyce Cabral

MANILA, Philippines- The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) put to task lawmakers from both Houses of Congress to conduct a joint or separate congressional inquiry on current water crisis affecting 12 million residents in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and vice chairperson Salvador France the full-blown investigation of the water problem that immediately affected 1.2 million residents in 177 barangays in Metro Manila should be in the first order of business of the 15th Congress under the Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III administration.

“If President Aquino is afraid to grill the Lopezes of Maynilad Water Services Inc. and the Ayalas of Manila Water Co. on respective culpabilities to the consuming public because they are Aquino’s political benefactors, Congress as separate and co-equal branch of the government should pursue the real score in aid of legislation,” Hicap and France said in their joint statement.

Cross party lines

The Pamalakaya leaders added: “Senators and congressmen should cross party lines and rise above the occasion and pursue this warranted investigation on the roots of water crisis and the evils of privatization of water service”.

Pamalakaya suggested to lawmakers to invite owners, officials and operators of the state owned Manila Water Sewerage System (MWSS) and the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) and water concessionaires Maynila and Manila Water. “Congress is lawfully, politically and morally obliged to send the policy of privatization and contracts to these water concessionaires in the hot seat of public investigation and public opinion. Let us all call a spade a spade,” the fisherfolk group said.

Pamalakaya said Congress should also expand its full-blown investigation by reviewing proposals such as the Laiban Dam project and the suggestion opening the water reserves of the 94,000 Laguna Lake to Maynilad and Manila Water despite the two companies’ dismal performance in providing the water needs of the people under a privatized water utility and service system. Dismissing the LLDA suggestion as mindboggling, incorrigible and all-out environmental plunder and destruction.

Pamalakaya said Congress should also go deeper on the plan to allow Maynilad and Manila Water to source additional water from the lake. LLDA’s Manda suggested to source water from Laguna Lake to mitigate the impact of water crisis in Metro Manila should the water level at the Angat dam remain at low level.

Obsession

The LLDA official said the Lopez owned Maynilad Water Services Incorporated has water treatment facilities which could be used to convert freshwater into potable water for Metro Manila consumption. Manda said they have conducted water sampling to determine the lake’s potential as a water source.

“Maynilad’s mouth watering attitude towards Laguna Lake has been there for more than a decades or even decades. This obsession in the name of monopoly profits has been in Maynilad’s corporate mindset since the all out deregulation, privatization and liberalization policy was implemented in the time former President Fidel v. Ramos,” asserted Hicap.

“The LLDA general manager has no option but to back off from the LLDA-Maynilad deal and rescind whatever written or verbal agreement the lake authority had entered into with the Lopez owned water utility,” added Hicap. Pamalakaya said the proposal of Maynilad is to abstract 300 million liters per day (MLD) from Laguna Lake is extremely dangerous to the lake environment. Hicap said the proposal will entail the closure of Napindan Hydraulic control system, preventing the entry of salt water of Manila Bay. He said fish species in Laguna Lake requires the mixing of salt and fresh water to spawn and survive.

“We strongly urge Manda and the LLDA authorities to refrain from further privatizing and converting the lake for the purpose of Jurassic model of development, super profiteering and fat returns of commissions and kickbacks. The LLDA is hereby prevented by national interest from entering into a contract that constitutes sell-out and all-out destruction of people’s livelihood and environment,” said Pamalakaya.

Death certificate

The Pamalakaya said the Maynilad plan is like a death certificate to Laguna Lake killing not only the livelihood of more than 500,000 people engage in fish capture and fish culture activities. He said it will also endanger the fish supply and the fish need of millions of people in the National Capital Region, Laguna and Rizal provinces. Citing the study conducted by the Netherlands government for the LLDA, it said Laguna De Bay, being the largest lake in the Philippines and strategically located in the heart of Calabarzon region, is the most viable source of water for Metro Manila’s west zone.

Maynilad, which is authorized water concessionaire of the Manila Water Sewerage System (MWSS) for the western part of Metro Manila, said the proposed plan if approved will enable the Lopez water utility firm to supply water to the remaining 29 percent covered by its agreement with MWSS in the West Zone area. At present, Maynilad renders water supply to about 703,519 customers, or only 71 percent of its total concession area. The rest of the west zone does not have enough water supply — mainly comprising the areas of Muntinlupa, Parañaque, and Las Piñas.

The LLDA said if it gives the go signal Maynilad will take over operations of the existing water treatment plant in Putatan, Muntinlupa, which currently extracts 180,000 cubic meters per month of lake water and then supplies it to the Ayala Alabang subdivision for the residents’ domestic use. Maynilad will gradually implement the 300-million-liters-per-day extraction of water from the Lake.

The first 100 million liters per day will be made available to the west zone of Metro Manila in 2010 and then water extraction will be increased to 200 million liters in 2011, and then 300 million liters per day by 2014. Maynilad has admitted that 53% of water allocated to the west zone was lost mainly due to leakages. Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson also said that the critical low water level in Angat Dam was attributed to lack of rain and Napocor’s fault on excessive water releases.

According to Water for the People Network reducing water loss or non-revenue water of both concessionaires to single digit percentage will mean additional 900 mld (million liters per day) of water supply to National Capital Region.

The WPN said the multipurpose reservoir of Angat Dam, which provides for 97 percent of the domestic water supply of Metro Manila, gets its water from the Angat Watershed Reservation.

The Angat Watershed Reservation has a total area of 62,309 hectares in two sub-catchments areas. The effective drainage area of the Reservation is 56,800 hectares. This watershed, if properly managed, could provide adequate water to the Angat Dam all year round.

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Manila’s justice chief set review on Belgian funded lake rehab project

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Rey Manangan

MANILA, Philippines- Leaders of the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday welcomed the decision of Department of Justice (DoJ) secretary Leila de Lima to review the controversial P 18.7 billion Laguna Lake rehabilitation awarded to a Belgian firm by the previous administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Vice chairperson Salvador France said the decision of Justice secretary de Lima to review the opinion issued by her predecessor-former secretary Alberto Agra that the project is an executive agreement and governed by Republic Act 8182 or the Official Development Assistance (ODA) Act of 1996.

In Agra’s opinion, ODA loan agreements may be considered an executive agreementm which the under revised implementing rules of the Government Reform Procurement Act are exempted from its provision requiring government projects to be subjected for bidding.
But in their July 2 letter of appeal to Secretary de Lima, the Pamalakaya leaders stressed the issue is a matter of life and death to 6 million people residing around the lake’s surroundings.

“Honorable Secretary de Lima please pardon us for bringing this early to your honorable office. We believe this is a matter of national interest beyond the sectoral interest of small fisherfolk in Laguna Lake and the 6 million people surrounding the country’s largest but dying lake. We affirm this is a matter of life and death in which your honorable office can play a decisive role to correct the grave mistakes of the past,” Hicap and France said in their July 2 letter to de Lima.

“Madam secretary, to begin with, former Justice Secretary and Solicitor General Alberto Agra recently issued an eight page opinion affirming the legality of the loan agreement between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Belgian government involving the rehabilitation of the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake which will cost the Belgian financial bank a total of P 18.7 billion,” they added.
Acccording to Pamalakaya, former Secretary Agra issued the opinion upon the request of acting Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Horacio Ramos who sought the advice of the DoJ on whether the loan agreement between the two countries shall be considered an executive agreement or a treaty that needs the approval of the Philippine Senate and what Philippine laws govern the loan agreement between the two countries.
In his eight page opinion issued less than two weeks before the inauguration of President Aquino, former justice secretary Agra asserted the loan agreement may be considered an executive agreement based on the ruling issued by the Supreme Court in the Commissioner of Customs v. Eastern Sea Trading case, where it differentiated an executive agreement from a treaty.
In the said ruling, the Court held that international agreements involving political issues or changes of national policy and those involving international arrangements of a permanent character usually take the form of treaties.

On the other hand, executive agreements involve arrangements of a more or less temporary nature such as commercial and consular relations. The P18.7-billion loan agreement was signed by the government through the DOF and Fortis Bank on April 30, 2010.

Pamalakaya learned the project is covered by a loan agreement between the government through the Department of Finance (DoF) and the Fortis Bank SA/NV, a Belgian commercial bank which offers a comprehensive package of financial services for private and professional clients, wealthy individuals, corporate clients, financial institutions and public entities.

The loan granted by the Belgian commercial bank is to be guaranteed by the office National du Ducroire Delcrederedienst, the export credit agency of the Belgian government. Secretary Agra said the loan is considered official development assistance (ODA) under Republic Act 8182 or the Official Development Assistance of 1996.
The loan was intended to improve the environmental condition of the lake in order to uplift the socioeconomic condition of the people within the Laguna de Bay regionand its spillover development effect benefiting the entire Metro Manila and the whole country as a whole, in the long term.

The project is composed of subprojects such as dredging of the lake nautical highways; lake water-quality improvement; development and operation of the lake ferry-transport system; and lakeshore development.

The project will be implemented for 850 days and the contract was awarded to Baggerwerken through direct contracting, an alternative mode of procurement. Sources said Baggerwerken is a Belgian company engaged in the business of keeping the sea lanes open, construction of some of the world’s biggest ports and protection of the coastal population against flooding and violence of the seas.

The supply contract was entered into by and between then-Environment secretary Eleazar Quinto for the government and Dimitry Dutilleuz for Baggerwerken. Quinto was one of those midnight appointees of former President Arroyo and was followed by Ramos, another midnight appointee of the former President.

The Pamalakaya leaders said they were highly puzzled about the project since this rehabilitation undertaking was not even brought to the attention of Laguna Lake people. Everybody was kept in the dark. This project is an across-the-lake mystery to 6 million people of Laguna Lake.

“The DoJ, the DENR and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) did not bother to inform, consult or seek the collective opinion of 6 million people living along the lake regarding the ambitious lake rehabilitation project funded by the Belgian government,” the group insisted.

“The fisherfolk of Laguna Lake through Pamalakaya wish to inform your honorable office and the chair of the EU delegation to the Philippines—Honorable Alistair MacDonald that there is nothing honorable with the P 18.7 billion Laguna lake rehabilitation project simply because the project was questionable and merely a passed on project by the Arroyo administration to the Aquino government that should be reviewed and scrutinized by the present dispensation,” the group in their letter to the DoJ chief.

“Nobody knows what the project is all about? Madam Secretary it seems to us the P 18-7 billion project is one of the midnight contracts rushed by President Arroyo and the Office of the President before Arroyo’s term expired on June 30. We have this strong feeling that this project is another money making campaign on the part of the former Arroyo presidency,” the group added.

Pamalakaya also sought the help of Secretary de Liam to faciliate a talk with the highest official of the EU commission in the Philippines to immediately ask the Belgian government and its Belgian embassy in Manila to indefinitely suspend or terminate the contract for the P 18.7 billion rehabilitation project in Laguna Lake.

“We are suspicious of the project which is packaged as rehabilitation project of Laguna Lake. The Philippine government could be pursuing a bogus rehabilitation project in the name of privatization of Laguna Lake at the expense of the livelihood and community rights of over 6 million lake people,” it said.

Pamalakaya said the 18 billion peso project was meant for the setting up of support infrastructures for the full-blown privatization of the lake. The government intends to clean the lake and get rid of fishing communities and urban poor villages in preparation for the grand entry of big business planning to put up an international airport and world class hotels along the lake.#

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Laguna Lakers slam P 200 million building project

By Pepsi Laloma, Sarsi Pimentel and Gerry Albert Corpuz

Binangonan, Philippines-The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday expressed disbelief on why and how the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA)pursued a P 200-million contract for a new three story building for the lake agency.

“P 200 million is P 200 million. This contract is a fast break deal and a last minute money making activity courtesy of the midnight deal department of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and LLDA General Manager Edgar Manda, an Arroyo stooge,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

Hicap learned that the LLDA’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) opened the bids last week to determine which of the contractors would get the project. The Pamalakaya leader said the winning bidder will receive the contract on June 28, two days before the inaugural of President elect Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino.

“Please allow us to establish the facts. The people of Laguna Lake- the 6 million stakeholders composed of small fishermen, farmers, urban poor and ordinary people were not consulted about this P 200 million escapade of the LLDA under the Arroyo-Manda regime. The construction of P 200 million building for LLDA is never a priority and all the people want is the genuine rehabilitation of the lake and assurance of fishing livelihood for small scale fishers,” added Hicap.

Pamalakaya said the people of Laguna Lake, especially the victims of super typhoon Ondoy were demanding state subsidies and assistance in the form of economic relief and rehabilitation and the immediate repair of their homes.

“They did not ask for the construction of a P 200 million building for LLDA. So where in this part of the globe did President Arroyo and Mr. Manda get their idea that all the victims of Ondoy want is a new building for LLDA. That’s baloney,” the militant group said.

Pamalakaya dared President-elect Aquino to recall the P 200-million project of the LLDA. “Mr. Aquino will face an across-the-lake project if his administration will continue to pursue to super damnable and crazy project,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said President elect Aquino should also instruct the incoming manager of the LLDA and the incoming secretary of Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to stop the project and declare the contract null and void since because the P 200-million contract is illegal, highly irregular and anomalous and against the collective interest of 6 million lake folk surrounding the lake.

The militant group said they will soon write the House of Representatives and the Philippine Senate to conduct either a joint or separate congressional inquiries on the P 200-million Laguna Lake building project.

“The draft of the letter of request to have this high crime of corruption investigated is ready. We will just wait Congress to name the next of Speaker of the House of Representatives and Senate President because the letter will be addressed to the top two leaders of the legislative branch,” said Pamalakaya.

Last Feb. 23, leaders of Pamalakaya and Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) submitted an Omnibus demand to LLDA Gen. Manager Manda. The set of demands include support and housing subsidies to victims of last year’s typhoon Ondoy and this year’s El Nino.

Pamalakaya and SLLM set of demands include supply of 1 rice of sack for free from March to July, P 5,000 economic and production subsidies for every fishing families and another P 5,000 for housing subsidy or house rehabilitation program per affected fishing family. #

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Affected El Nino fishers dump water lilies at DA in protest of government neglect

by Lollipop delos Reyes and Trinity Biglang Awa

Manila, Philippines-Fisherfolk affected by the El Nino phenomenon in Laguna Lake on Tuesday dumped water lilies at the gate of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Quezon City to protest what they called state neglect of small fisherfolk, one of the sectors devastated by the ongoing dry spell all over the country.

Some 20 fisherfolk activists belonging to Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis party list and Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) staged a roving picket carrying water lilies harvested from lakeshores of Laguna to denounce the agriculture department’s insensitivity to the plight of lake fishers across the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake.

“We assert our political right to state subsidies so we can fish and survive the harsh impact of El Nino. But our legitimate right for social justice is eternally neglected and abandoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Secretary Arthur Yap ,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader said the national government, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and the local government units surrounding Laguna Lake have no contingency plans for lake people affected by El Nino. Hicap said not a single centavo has been spent for El Nino affected lake folk since January this year.

“What happened to the P 1.7 billion El Nino funds? Why the government and its local units at the grassroots level have yet to release the calamity funds allocated to mitigate the impact of extreme heat and dry spell? We are not begging for alms, we are asserting our political and economic right for subsidies,” added Hicap.

Pamalakaya had submitted 8-point demand for small fisherfolk and urban poor families to LLDA General Manager Edgar Manda last week for prompt and appropriate action—1. Stop demolition of 400,000 lake folk families around Laguna Lake, 2. Permanently open Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NCHS), 3. Stop reclamation and other forms of privatization and conversion in Laguna Lake, 4. P 5,000 housing rehabilitation fund for fishermen whose houses were destroyed during typhoon Ondoy, 5. Economic grant composed of 1 sack of rice per month for every poor fishing family, 6. P 1,500 worth of groceries per month for each poor fisherfolk family, 7. Promulgation of provincial and municipal orders allowing farmers and fisherfolk in the lake to plant around the lake or conduct other means of backyard livelihood as possible source of income and 8. mobilization of doctors and health workers in fishing villages to address El Nino generated diseases.

Pamalakaya lamented that Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap is pre-occupied with corruption tainted projects in DA like the controversial P 455-million overpriced ice making machine projects, instead of attending to the demands of el Nino affected sectors.

Last week, Anakpawis party list and Pamalakaya dared President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Secretary Yap to account a total of P 7.14 billion in taxpayers’ money, which the Commission on Audit (COA) found missing or diverted to other purposes in 2008.

Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said President Arroyo and Sec. Yap did not disclose the public the report and findings of COA about the disbursement of more than 7 billion pesos, which the state-run auditing body said was lost to “wasteful operation, bungled project implementation or missing and diverted funds.

“The funds which should be used to cushion the life threatening impact of El Nino to fisherfolk and rural producers are missing and nowhere to be found. But Yap is taking this highly explosive issue with a grain of salt,” added Clemente. #

We can't eat water lilies

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Lawmakers urged to let go salaries, pork barrel for El Nino victims

By Akihira Tatchu and Bb. Joyce Cabral in Manila
and Lollipop delos Reyes, in Antipolo City, Rizal

Leftwing militants belonging to Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday urged senators and congressmen to donate their salaries and remaining pork barrel from March to June 30, 2010 to victims of El Nino.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson Salvador France appealed to senators and district representatives to contribute their available funds to subsidize sectors hardly hit by the long dry spell, specifically farmers and fishermen all over the country. The fisherfolk leader lamented that Malacanang, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have yet to identify workable solutions that will provide urgent relief to affected and other vulnerable sectors.

France said the affected sectors could generate P 40,425 each from each district congressman. If there are 220 district congressmen, the fund which could be raised would be P 8,893,500 per month or
P 35.57 million for four months. The Pamalakaya leader said there are 23 senators at present, and each senator also receives P 40,425 per month or P 929,775 for all senators. If they senators decide to donate their salaries to El Nino victims, the amount that can be generated from senators’ salaries for next four months would be P 3,719,100.

Pamalakaya said if the 243 congressmen and senators will donate at least P 20 million of their remaining pork barrel for the year that would amount to P 4.86 billion, excluding their salaries. The militant group said what the executive branch of government did so far was to monitor the impact of El Nino and hyped multi-billion mitigation projects which are subjected to audit free schemes, and are prone to high crimes of corruption.

Pamalakaya said the combined salaries and donated pork barrel could raise as much as P 5-billion which could be of big help to affected farmers and fishermen.

“There are billions of pesos of unprogrammed funds out there in the secret vault of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. There are billions of pesos of unaccounted presidential pork barrel funds that were kept and are still in the disposal of the ruling syndicate in Malacanang. Where are these funds? Why not mobilize these funds to provide subsidies and other forms of aid to El Nino affected folks?” the group said.

Earlier, leaders of Pamalakaya, Anakpawis party list and Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) submitted a 5-point Omnibus demand to Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) that would cushion the impact of El Nino to small fisherfolk and urban poor communities situated along the lake.

The 5-point Omnibus Demand presented to LLDA General Manager Edgar Manda includes supply of 1 sack of rice per family for free beginning March to July this year.

The proposal submitted to LLDA likewise calls on the lake agency to compel local government units to immediately release the calamity funds intended for their respective constituents and allows fisherfolk and farmers plant crops for their subsistence or alternative livelihood.

The groups also tasked the Department of Health (DoH) to mobilize doctors and health workers to look into the situation of poor folk and be ready to provide the lake people with free checkups and medicines. They also pressed the government to set aside at least P 1,500 worth of groceries package for every family of poor fisherfolk and lake resident in the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake representing the 9 lake towns of Rizal and 18 lake towns of Laguna, including the cities of Pasig, Taguig and Muntinlupa and the municipality of Pateros- all in National Capital Region.

“Instead of proceeding with demolitions of fishing villages, privatization and conversion of public lands along the lake, we urge the government to provide P 5,000 rehabilitation grant to every fishing family so they could repair their houses wrecked by typhoon Ondoy last year,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya said the LLDA should permanently open if not dismantle the controversial Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NCHS) to allow salt water from Manila Bay to penetrate Laguna Lake. Gonzalez said the regular entry of salt water in Laguna Lake will allow the lake to restore its former ecological balance and healthy inland environment. #

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El Nino drives lake fishers to demand econ subsidy from gov’t

By Rey Manangan, Billy Javier Reyes and Pepsi La Loma

Taytay, Rizal- The impact of El Nino phenomenon on the already dwindling inland resources of Laguna Lake compelled lake fishers to demand the government a monthly supply of 1 sack of rice for every fishing family for free.

The proposal came from Laguna Lake fishermen identified with the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis party list the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the broad Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM).

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the demand for free supply of rice to cushion the impact of long dry spell is just one of the five set of economic demands pressed by small fishermen from Malacanang, concerned government agencies and local governments in Laguna Lake. He said the issue of lingering hunger and poverty in Laguna Lake that was further compounded by last year’s super typhoon Ondoy and now the El Nino phenomenon.

Hicap said the proposal was agreed by leaders of Pamalakaya, Anakpawis party list and SLLM during an all Laguna Lake leaders caucus held in Pamalakaya headquarters in Quezon City last week and was affirmed in the municipal assembly of Anakpawis –Cardona chapter in Talim Island yesterday.

“Our proposal for supply of 1 rice of sack for free will cover the month of March, April, May, June and July- where the long dry spell is expected to end. Aside from free supply of rice within the period, we also demand local government units to immediately release the calamity funds intended for their respective constituents and let fisherfolk and farmers plant crops for their subsistence or alternative livelihood,” added Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader also said that since the long dry spell is expected to generate heat related diseases among fisherfolk and poor lake dwellers, his group is also urging the Department of Health (DoH) to mobilize doctors and health workers to look into the situation of poor folk and be ready to provide the lake people with free check ups and medicines.

Hicap also pressed the government to set aside at least P 1,500 worth of groceries package for every family of poor fisherfolk and lake resident in the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake representing the 9 lake towns of Rizal and 18 lake towns of Laguna, including the cities of Pasig, Taguig and Muntinlupa and the municipality of Pateros- all in National Capital Region.

For his part, Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog chair and SLLM convener Pedro Gonzalez, the set of economic subsidy package is just an item to the set of Omnibus Demand crafted by fisherfolk , the party list group Anakpawis and other cause-oriented organizations in Laguna Lake.

Gonzalez said Malacanang, the Laguna Lake Development Authority(LLDA), the provincial and municipal governments of Rizal and Laguna and city mayors in Metro Manila should stop if not indefinitely suspend the demolition of communities in the lake and put an end to the ongoing massive reclamation and other joint state-private projects.

“Instead of proceeding with demolitions of fishing villages, privatization and conversion of public lands along the lake, we urge the government to provide P 5,000 rehabilitation grant to every fishing family so they could repair their houses wrecked by typhoon Ondoy last year,” said Gonzalez.

The 66-year old fisherfolk leader said LLDA should permanently open if not dismantle the controversial Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NCHS) to allow salt water from Manila Bay to penetrate Laguna Lake. Gonzalez said the regular entry of salt water in Laguna Lake will allow the lake to restore its former ecological balance and healthy inland environment.

This set of demands, according to Anakpawis party list secretary general Cherry Clemente will be submitted to the following agencies—the LLDA, the provincial and local governments in Rizal and Laguna, to the mayor of Pasig City, Taguig City, Muntinlupa City and municipality of Pateros.

Clemente said a petition for the same set of demands will also be submitted to the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the health department and to the Office of the President, House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for appropriate actions.

Tomorrow, a 10-vehicle caravan from different towns of Rizal and Laguna and NCR will join a march rally led by some 2,000 urban poor residents of Lupang Arenda in Taytay, Rizal to press LLDA to stop the demolition of their communities and endorse the El Nino driven demands set by Pamalakaya, SLLM and Anakpawis for people of Laguna Lake.

The government plans to evict 62,000 fishing and urban poor families in Lupang Arenda on the ground that they all live in danger zone areas, but critics said the government is using the issue of massive flooding caused by typhoon Ondoy last year to justify the demolition and make easy for the government to install big ticket projects in Laguna Lake. #

incumbent mayors are called to release calamity funds for El Nino victims

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Only 3 presidential bets take up fishers’ issues—says group

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Bb. Joyce Cabral

Manila, Philippines-

A boy presented a relief stub during Pamalakaya and Anakpawis' relief operations in Talim Island, Rizal

Leftwing activists belonging to the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday said of the 9 presidential candidates, only three—Nacionalista Party (NP) standard bearer Sen. Manny Villar, independent candidate Sen. Jamby Madrigal and Lakas-Kampi merger party bet Gilberto Teodoro have taken up the issues raised by small fisherfolk.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said Villar was more interested in providing production subsidies and relief to small fisherfolk hit by rising prices of petroleum products and seasonal disaster, Madrigal focused on the particular fight against the privatization and conversion of Manila Bay and offshore mining in the high seas, while Teodoro offered his help to fast track the cleanup of Manila Bay in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling and the pursuance of Philippine claim to the controversial Spratly Island.

“The rest of presidential wannabes have yet to issue any official policy statement how they would solve the multifaceted problems in Philippine fisheries, while the 3 presidential candidates need to concretize and be more comprehensive in addressing the sorry state of Filipino fisherfolk and the fisheries environment,” the Pamalakaya leader noted.

Hicap said his group wants to hear from Villar, Madrigal and Teodoro, while at the same time strongly encourages the rest of the presidential candidates—Liberal Party presidential bet Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, Partido ng Masang Pilipino standard bearer former President Joseph Estrada, independent bets Richard Gordon, Nicanor Perlas, Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas Movement and JC de los Reyes of the Kapatiran party.

Salvador France, Pamalakaya national vice-chair for his part, his group will stage the 2nd staging of Pamalakaya Fisherfolk Academy (PFA) next month, a presidential forum which aims to gather all presidential and vice presidential candidates in the May 2010 polls.

The forum which was first organized in the May 2007 elections for senatorial candidates, will ask all presidential candidates their respective stand and views on the fisherfolk electoral agenda which will be presented in the half-day forum.

The Pamalakaya official said among the doable demands their group will present to presidential candidates is the immediate and unconditional halt on all reclamation and conversion projects in Laguna Lake and Manila Bay, an indefinite freeze to demolition plans of fishing and urban poor communities along Manila Bay, Laguna Lake and other foreshore land areas across-the-country, the immediate recall of all offshore mining projects in Central and Western Visayas, Mindanao and Palawan seas, Northern Luzon and Bicol regions.

France said, Pamalakaya will also ask the presidential and vice-presidential candidates their position on proposals to abrogate the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) and the repeal of the Fisheries Code of 1998 and the approval of production subsidy law for fisheries that provide financial and material support to small fisherfolk to improve production and their standard of living.

Pamalakaya will also ask the commitment of presidential and vice presidential candidates that if they win, they will investigate highly questionable contracts and projects implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA) including but not limited to the overpriced P 455 million ice making machine and the
P 7.14 billion agriculture funds which were missing according to the findings of the Commission on Audit dated December 2008.

Quoting the COA 2008 report, the Pamalakaya leader said a total of P 5.19 billion intended for farm-to-market road project were either missing or incomplete. France said the DA only spent P 1.3 billion or 38.99 percent of the total project allotment for 2008. Another big item, the P 1.3 billion fertilizer fund project under the GMA Rice Program was also bungled because local government units refused to participate in the implementation.

“The projects were reportedly incomplete. So the next question is where are the unspent funds? Are they really missing? Were they diverted or juggled to other highly questionable projects? What happen to the farm-to-market road project? Did it become farm to pocket (of GMA allies) road project?” asked
France.

Pamalakaya also took note COA’s other findings like printing of P 2.2 million fertilizer discount coupons which were rendered useless, the construction of mini-dams in Regions VIII, IX and XI built at a cost of
P 7.35 million but were rendered useless due to inferior construction, the construction of 11 Barangay Food Terminals worth P 1.55 million but only one was functional, and the remaining 10 were condemned due to operational deficiencies.

The same COA report described DA as notorious in purchasing equipment which are overpriced, not really needed or cannot be utilized or run by intended beneficiaries, adding that many of the equipment bought are unutilized, undelivered and now rusting in storage.

Pamalakaya said the earth shaking COA report should stop the national government and the agriculture department from buying 300 new ice-making machines to the amount of P 1.5 billion on top of the 98 ice-making machines which DA purchased in 2009 at an overpriced rate of P 4.6 million, 100 percent more of the prevailing industry price. #

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Fisherfolk organizer detained for bearing ID of Anakpawis party list

By Trinity Biglang Awa

Binangonan, Rizal- An organizer of the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and former chair of Anakpawis party list-Binangonan chapter illegally arrested and detained by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Binangonan upon suspicion that the fisherfolk activist has connections with the New People’s Army (NPA) upon discovery of the party list ID in his wallet.

Early this morning, Pamalakaya organizer Ronel Arambulo, 28 was on his way to Pamalakaya-Binangonan staff house in Barangay Wawa to prepare for the relief operations to victims of typhoon Ondoy, when he was chanced upon by Binangonan police conducting an anti-drug saturation drive near the vicinity.

Reports reaching the headquarters of Pamalakaya in Quezon City said Arambulo was taken to Binangonan municipal jail on suspicion that he is a drug pusher and drug user. But when the police found out that he is an organizer of Pamalakaya and former chair of Anakpawis party list, the police told Arambulo that he should be detained because his Anakpawis ID is a proof that he has connections with the NPA and the police kept his cell phone.

Pamalakaya-vice chairperson Salvador France assailed the police for arresting their organizer and for implicating Arambulo to NPA upon the discovery of an Anakpawis party list ID.

“What is wrong with Anakpawis party list ID? That’s a legal identification that Arambulo is an open, legal and aboveground activist. Is it a crime to bear Anakpawis ID for political and legal identification? Is there a law that makes someone criminal, terrorist or unlawful if he has the ID of Anakpawis or other progressive party lists” France added.

The Pamalakaya leader said Arambulo, aside from being his group’s coordinator and organizer in Binangonan for seven years, was elected Anakpawis-Binangonan chair from 2007-2010. Last February 7, the fisherfolk organizer led the election of new set of officers of Anakpawis during its third municipal assembly in Ynares Plaza.

On February 9-10, Arambulo led the five-vehicle caravan of Pamalakaya and Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) to campaign for the party list bid of Anakpawis and Makabayan coalition senatorial bets Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna) and Liza Maza (Gabriela Women’s Party).

Prior to his arrest this morning, Arambulo was with leaders of Pamalakaya and SLMM last night in Lupang Arenda in Taytay, Rizal for a mini-proclamation rally. The fisherfolk group and the Laguna Lake alliance “miting de avance” attended by more than 2,000 fisherfolk and urban poor declared their support to progressive party lists— Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan Party, Act Teachers Party list and Akap Bata and endorsed the senatorial bids of Ocampo and Maza.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap urged Binangonan mayor Carlos “Boyet” Ynares to intervene and recall the unlawful and politically motivated arrest of Arambulo. He said Pamalakaya will not hesitate to file criminal and other appropriate charges against the Binangonan PNP if they will not free Arambulo.

“If they will not release Arambulo within the next 12 to 24 hours, we will file criminal and other appropriate charges against the leadership and members of the arresting team of PNP- Binangonan,” he added.

Hicap said Pamalakaya will also file complaint of human rights violations and other grave violations of guaranteed constitutional rights and civil liberties against PNP Binangonan over the illegal arrest and detention of Arambulo by the local police.

“We will deluge the PNP Binangonan with charges. That’s for sure. We will also ask Anakpawis party list representatives Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod to have this politically motivated act of the police investigated in the House of Representatives,” the Pamalakaya official said.

Pamalakaya has dispatched a team of para-legal volunteers and will join officers and members of Anakpawis-Binangonan to conduct their own investigation and seek dialogue with Mayor Ynares. #

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