by Bb. Joyce Cabral
Manila, Philippines- Leaders of indigenous Dumagat communities in Tanay, Rizal went on Tanay-Manila protest caravan against the revival of the mothballed Laiban Dam Project.
In a press statement sent to The Pamalakaya Times, leaders of Dumagat indigenous groups asserted that the $ 1 billion dam project would submerge 7 barangays in Tanay and 2 in Gen. Nakar, Quezon province.
The protest caravan, which came a week after lawmakers from the House of Representatives filed a bill seeking a halt on all flagship dam projects in the country in the aftermath of the San Roque Dam flooding of provinces in Northern Luzon. The caravan was also joined by farmers, fisherfolks and other sectors from Southern Tagalog, and it is part of the weeklong activities to commemorate peasant week.
Among the Dumagat leaders, Lupe de la Cruz,70 of Sitio Nayon, Brgy. Sta. Ines, Tanay said that they are firm in their stand against the construction of the dam citing its severe effects to their livelihood, safety, and ancestral domain.
“Mawawalan kami ng tirahan at ang ang aming mga pananim ay lalamunin ng tubig. Papaalisin kami sa aming lugar na hindi naman namin alam kung ang paglilipatan sa amin ay may pananim o wala; o kung malaya ba kaming nakakapaglakad katulad sa aming lupang ninuno na walang humahadlang sa amin”, he said
The Laiban Dam project which started in the 1970s recently saw its revival following moves of San Miguel Bulk Water Co., Inc, a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation owned by landlord Danding Cojuangco to submit an unsolicited joint venture proposal to MWSS to develop the dam.
Government data showed that some 4,413 families will be directly displaced including Dumagat and Remontado communities, while downstream communities are also at risk of disastrous flooding should the project pushes through.
De la Cruz also chided military atrocities in their area, ranging from intimidation to direct threats among residents vocal against the project. Increased military presence were also observed in the area.
“Mahirap lumabas sa mga kabayanan dahil iniimbestigahan kami ng mga militar, tinatanong kung kasapi ng NPA”, he furthered.
On October 17-18, Dumagat leaders joined the solidarity mission “Lakbay Pakikiisa”, initiated by multi-sectoral groups in the region led by BAYAN-ST, Serve the People Corps, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, Kabataan and the indigenous Katribu partylists to provide relief and rehabilitation to communities in Tanay, Rizal that have yet to receive help from the government despite the damage Typhoon Ondoy has wrought.
The group traversed the bumpy roads for 4 hours leading to Brgy. Sta. Ines, where at least 1,300 families waited and availed of the relief goods. Medical and psycho-social services were also extended to the residents.
The coordinated protests also marked the 18th anniversary of Calabarzon Project, an extensive development project in Region IV-A which has brought destruction to peasants, fisherfolks, and urban poor communities over the region in favor of foreign and local business interests.
“The 18 years of Project CALABARZON has only brought tragedy and has only worsened the lives of the people in the region with its pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist leaning. The government made it appear as a developmental project when in reality, only few business interests who would benefit from it”, said Imelda Lacandazo, spokesperson of the militant KASAMA-TK.
She furthered that massive land conversion and infrastructure building have already displaced farmers, fisher folks and urban poor communities, and have caused serious blow to the environment.
Similar protest actions were also held in Batangas Pier and Trece Martires City in Cavite while members of the Save Laguna Lake Movement also staged a protest caravan going to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources office in Quezon City.
The caravan from Rizal will also stage protest actions in Benpres holdings where displaced farmers from Brgy. Macabud in Rodriguez, Rizal will air their grievance against the Lopez owned Bantay Kalikasan. The caravan will then head to the Department of National Defense and the MWSS offices before joining the Laguna delegation in a protest march from the Department of Agrarian Reform to the DENR office. #