Tag Archives: Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco

Big landlords to benefit from P 4-B Akbayan pork barrel

By Roy Morilla, Jay Cuesta and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines-Big landlords in the Philippines will get their own pork barrel amounting to P 4-B in total agrarian reform subsidy courtesy of a party list group supported by the camp of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III in the last May 2010 elections.

Leaders of various farmer groups from Negros Island and Hacienda Luisita sugar estate in Tarlac province said the P 4-B support fund for bridges and infrastructures clinched by Akbayan party list will chiefly benefit the big landlords across the country like the family of President Aquino who still control the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita and the 11 huge land estates in Negros Occidental own by the President’s uncle Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.Yesterday, farmer leaders took turns in assailing the P 4.05 B pork barrel fund awarded by allies of the President in the House of Representatives to Akbayan party list, a staunch supporter of the present administration.

The Akbayan party list group said the P 4-B fund they sought from Congress was meant to provide support infrastructures and agricultural support and credit to agrarian reform communities (ARCs) and new farmer beneficiaries of the extended land reform program.

But in press conference held at Serye Café and Restaurant in Quezon City, farmer groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Negros (NFSW-Negros), the Luisita based farm worker groups United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and Unyon ng mga Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) rebuked Akbayan party list.

The activist peasant leaders asserted only big landlords and foreign agribusiness groups engaged in production of export crops and who control and dictate the operations of ARCs will benefit from the P 4 B pork barrel fund sought by Akbayan party list.

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“And that made the four-billion peso fund a pork barrel for big agribusiness, contrary to claim of Akbayan party list that the funds were meant to uplift the poor condition of new farmer beneficiaries under the extended land reform program,” they said.

The KMP and its staunch allies reminded Akbayan party list that land ownership in ARCs are only nominal and that the landlords and foreign agro-corporations still dictate what kind of crops should be planted in these agrarian reform areas.

They also said Akbayan should be reminded that even family of President Benigno Aquino III who controls the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita and Danding Cojuangco who operates at least 11 haciendas in Negros Island are also exploiting the ARC mode as a supplement to non-land transfer schemes such as Stock Distribution Option (SDO), joint venture and corporative farming to evade free land distribution and keep their lands for lifetime.

“Representatives of Akbayan party list are fooling millions of farmers across the country when they claimed that the P 4 billion infrastructure fund is meant to support fresh agrarian reform beneficiaries under the bankrupt CARPer regime. The ARCs operate under the whims and caprices of feudal lords and big agro-corporations, so it is a pork barrel set aside for these all time greedy entities. There is also no land reform to speak of under CARPer,” leaders of KMP-Negros, NFSW-Negros and UMA said during the press conference.

The KMP and its staunch allies said the ARCs are bogus land reform models, adding that land ownership in these communities are nominal because the farmers who possessed the lands are coerced to lease their lands to landlords and big agribusiness corporations for the production of cash crops and export crops.

For his part, KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella dismissed the P 4-B pork barrel fund to Akbayan party list a product of politics of payback to the highest order.

“The P 4 billion in total cash prize for Akbayan party list is an exchange deal for Akbayan support to the candidacy of President Aquino in May 2010 election. It is grandslam prize money for Akbayan for acting as the fourth communications group of Malacanang in the House of Representatives. In a nutshell, the P 4 billion Akbayan pork barrel is another form of government procurement of P 4 billion worth of political loyalty and patronage,” the KMP official said.

Marbella urged the House of Representatives to recall the P 4-B agrarian infrastructure fund to prevent big landlords and other groups with sinister agenda from the partaking fund and instead re-channel the four billion peso fund to support and production subsidies for rural producers across the country.

The KMP leader said the P 4-billion Akbayan pork barrel fund for agrarian infrastructure could be added to the palay procurement program of the National Food Authority (NFA) to enable the food agency to raise its palay buying capacity to 10 percent from the current 4 percent.

“We don’t want that P 4 billion worth of hard-earned taxes to go to big landlords and people with cruel intentions against the farmers. It is only politically, morally and legally correct for Congress to recall the highly questionable

P 4 billion and re-channel it to other social justice measures such as direct production subsidies to farmers and other rural producers,” added Marbella.

The P 4 B fund awarded to Akbayan will be sourced from the P 110.6 B given to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). According to Cavite Rep. Jose Emilio Abaya, chair of the House Committee on Appropriation, Akbayan Rep. Kaka Bag-Ao lobbied for the P 4 billion pork barrel agrarian fund for fresh beneficiaries under CARPer.

The KMP believed the P 4 billion pork barrel fund for Akbayan party list was in exchange for the support of the party list group to the proposed P 21-B budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for its conditional cash transfer (CCT) program currently being questioned by over 100 congressmen and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago at the upper chamber of the House.

The KMP also assailed Akbayan for drumbeating the success of CARPer as basis for its agrarian advocacy. Citing a recent study made by independent think tank Ibon Foundation, the KMP noted that last year, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) only managed to distribute 64,329 hectares of land out of the official target of 163,014 hectares under the extended land reform, and therefore big chunks of agricultural lands are still in the hands of big landlords and corporate groups, asserting further the P 4.05 B agrarian infrastructure fund will go to the hands of landed few.

Of the 64, 329 hectares distributed, 42, 428 hectares are private agricultural lands, but only 1,777 hectares or 4 percent of the total private agricultural lands were distributed through compulsory acquisition, and 96 percent were acquired under the voluntary offer to sell scheme.

Citing the same Ibon study, the KMP argued that only 17,501 hectares were distributed from January 2010 to June 2010, and that only 1,061.51 hectares or 6% were distributed through compulsory acquisition. Meanwhile, land distributed through the voluntary offer to sell mode – which landlords used to their advantage by dictating the price – covered a bigger 7.7% or 1,340.44 hectares.

The activist farmer group also said land distributed through the voluntary land transfer (VLT) mode – which allows landlords to retain control over their landownings by choosing whom to transfer land ownership to – covered the largest percentage at 40.7% or 7,119.14 hectares, all of which are landholdings over 50 hectares.

“The lands are still in the hands of the landed elite based on the own records of DAR. By design, by orientation and by practical means, the P 4 billion pork barrel fund alloted to fresh agrarian beneficiaries is a misnomer, a wholesale fraud and a triple platinum fund raising campaign for near future high crimes of corruption. It will only benefit the 11 haciendas of Danding in Negros and the President’s feudal empire in Hacienda Luisita,” the KMP added.

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Militants slam new DENR chief for evading talks on Laiban dam

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. #

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(UPDATE)Noynoy, LP told: Please qualify, quantify program for “change”

By Chocolate Moose Fernandez, Cherry Pie Eggpie Sandoval,
Sugar Hicap and Lollipop delos Reyes

Manila, Philippines-The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Monday asked 2010 presidential candidate Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and his party mates in the Liberal Party to qualify and quantify the change the son of the late former President Corazon Aquino carries as platform on his way of becoming the next President of the Philippine Republic.

“Please allow us to set the record straight. The Filipino people are not inclined to buy dime-a-dozen polemics and sheer rhetoric speeches and statements. The Liberal Party standard bearer and his party mates should qualify and quantify what changes they will bring in 2010 if Noynoy wins the presidency next year,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya official prepared 10 issues which Senator Aquino and the Liberal Party should answer categorically to put substance and muscle to promise of change offered by the Noynoy camp for 92 million Filipinos.

The 10 issues raised to Aquino for concrete response were:

1. The immediate and unconditional free distribution of 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita sugar estate to agricultural laborers and farmworkers.
2. The prosecution of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and members of her ruling clique on charges of high crime of corruption, grave human rights violations and election fraud
3. The legislative approval of the P 125 across the board daily pay hike for workers, P 3,000 across the board monthly salary increase for government employees and the P 9,000 pay hike demanded by teachers nationwide.
4. The abrogation of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)
5. The repeal of Republic Act 9700 or the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Reforms (Carper) and its immediate replacement of a meaningful agrarian reform program carried by House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).
6. The repeal of oil deregulation law and the nationalization of oil industry
7. The resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)
8. The review and total abrogation of treaties entered by the Arroyo government including but not limited to World Trade Organization (WTO) and Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), which was ratified by Senate in 1994 and 2008 respectively.
9. The return of the P 130-billion coconut levy fund to small coconut farmers
10. An end to all government destructive projects in Manila Bay, Laguna Lake, Calabarzon areas and all parts of the country that displace millions of poor people and rural folk all over the Philippines.

Pamalakaya said it was shocked to see and hear Sen. Aquino on national TV announcing his plan to seek audience with and talk to his uncle— business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, while at the same time maintaining either a hostile or elusive attitude to the invitation of Hacienda Luisita farmers to sit down and talk to them on the urgent proposal for the immediate and free distribution of hacienda lands.

“As far as we are concerned, flirting with the Danding camp is a no show of promise but a glimpse of what a Noynoy presidency has to offer to the people—that is political accommodation and puppetry to big business,” the militant group added.

“Senator Aquino wants to talk and exchange pleasantries with Danding. Now, what’s the big deal behind this sudden change of heart of the late President Corazon Aquino son? Is the senator and gentleman from Tarlac ready to smoke the peace pipe with Danding to gain the latter’s support for his presidential ambition in exchange for Hacienda Luisita and the land rights of agricultural workers and landless farmers?” asked Pamalakaya.

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NPC’s ganging up of Chiz shows Danding Mafia rule— Militants

By Chocolate Moose Fernandez and Lollipop de los Reyes

Manila, Philippines-Leftwing militants belonging to Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday said the ganging up of erstwhile Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) presidential candidate Sen. Francis Escudero by his party mates led by Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco and son Rep. Mark Cojuangco was lucid testimony that Danding and sons operate the political party like a Mafia.

“The NPC is being run by the Danding Cojuangco mafia, and those who will oppose the sinister agenda and cruel intentions of the ruling syndicate shall be expelled from the party. The case of Senator Francis Escudero is highly evident here. After bolting out from the Cojuangco party, the senator is now being persecuted by the rabid lapdogs of the NPC,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

Yesterday, Danding’s son Rep. Mark Cojuangco admitted that radical positions taken up by Sen. Escudero on several issues that support the call of Filipino workers for P 125 across the board wage increase and the immediate scrapping of billions of debts incurred by farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) caused the split between the senator and the NPC founded by Danding in 1992 as his vehicle when the chair of San Miguel Corporation ran as President.

The young Cojuangco said the position of Escudero in favor of legislated wage increase might cause the collapse of the business ,while the proposal to condone billions of pesos in debt incurred by farmer beneficiaries under CARP should have wait for the inventory of the debts before the NPC takes an official stand.

“What is wrong in calling for the legislative approval of P 125 across the board daily wage hike for Filipino workers? What is wrong with the proposal to condone debts incurred by farmers under the bogus CARP? There’s nothing wrong about these advocacies,” added Hicap.

On the other hand, Pamalakaya said what was immoral and patently despicable was the annoucement of Liberal Party presidential standard bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino on national TV that he was seeking a dialogue and reconciliation with Danding, while on the other hand remains elusive and non-committal to demands of Hacienda Luisita agricultural and farm workers for the free distribution of land, which he asserted, was acquired by the Cojuangcos through unjust, immoral, coercive and unlawful means.

Pamalakaya asserted that it is public knowledge that Danding wants a considerable portion of Hacienda Luisita for the expansion of San Miguel Corporation, and a Noynoy presidency will make the Pacman’s dream to come true.

On December 18, 2008, the Hacienda Luisita Management signed by Hernan M. Gregorio, Jr. — assistant Estate Manager of HLI imposed a deadline to farm workers that they only have up to October 30, 2009 to harvest and finish all land cultivation activities inside the hacienda.

In response to the Oct. 30 deadline, some 50 supporters of Hacienda Luisita farm workers staged a mass demonstration outside the Cojuangco business building in Makati City this morning, and issued their own cease and desist order against the Luisita management.

In their two-page cease and desist order, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) declared the Hacienda Luisita Oct.30 deadline null and void, immoral, unlawful and fatally flawed.

Hacienda Luisita has been under stock distribution scheme since the implementation of CARP in 1991 during the Aquino administration, which the groups said superficially, classified the farmer-beneficiaries as “stock-holders. KMP and UMA said the SDO commenced with the massive land use conversion (LUCs) that left only about 3,200 hectares of agricultural lands from the original 7,500 hectares in 1958.#

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Hacienda Luisita farmers tell Noynoy: Talk to us, not to Danding

By Roy Morilla, Jay Calaguing and Sugar Hicap

Manila, Philippines-Rural based groups representing farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita on Friday urged Liberal Party presidential candidate Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino to stop “flirting” with business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. and instead sit down with them to discuss the immediate and unconditional free distribution of 6,453 hectare sugar estate to farm workers and agrarian reform beneficiaries.

In a joint press statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the hacienda based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) accused Senator Aquino of evading the issue of Hacienda Luisita, including the October 30 deadline set by the management for agricultural workers to stop any tilling activities inside the disputed 6,000 hectare sugar estate.

KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos said Sen. Aquino on Wednesday announced on national TV that he was seeking a dialogue and reconciliation with Danding, while on the other hand remains elusive and non-committal to demands of Hacienda Luisita agricultural and farm workers for the free distribution of land, which he asserted, was acquired by the Cojuangcos through unjust, immoral, coercive and unlawful means.

“Senator Aquino wants to talk and exchange pleasantries with Danding. Now, what’s the big deal behind this sudden change of heart of the late President Corazon Aquino son? Is the senator and gentleman from Tarlac ready to smoke the peace pipe with Danding to gain the latter’s support for his presidential ambition in exchange for Hacienda Luisita and the land rights of agricultural workers and landless farmers?

In the same vein, UMA spokesperson and ULWU acting president Lito Bais theorized that the LP standard bearer wanted to gain either the open or discreet support of his uncle, knowing Danding’s role as political kingmaker in every presidential election, ranging from campaign funds to electoral machinery.

“It is public knowledge that Danding wants a considerable portion of Hacienda Luisita for the expansion of San Miguel Corporation, and a Noynoy presidency will make the Pacman’s dream to come true. Noynoy and Danding can deny this high heaven, but they cannot escape the sharp eyes and highly critical minds of Hacienda Luisita people,” Bais said.

On December 18, 2008, the Hacienda Luisita Management signed by Hernan M. Gregorio, Jr. — assistant Estate Manager of HLI imposed a deadline to farm workers that they only have up to October 30, 2009 to harvest and finish all land cultivation activities inside the hacienda.

In response to the Oct. 30 deadline, some 50 supporters of Hacienda Luisita farm workers staged a mass demonstration outside the Cojuangco business building in Makati City this morning, and issued their own cease and desist order against the Luisita management.
In their two-page cease and desist order, KMP and UMA declared the Hacienda Luisita Oct.30 deadline null and void, immoral, unlawful and fatally flawed.

Hacienda Luisita has been under stock distribution scheme since the implementation of CARP in 1991 during the Aquino administration, which the groups said superficially, classified the farmer-beneficiaries as “stock-holders. KMP and UMA said the SDO commenced with the massive land use conversion (LUCs) that left only about 3,200 hectares of agricultural lands from the original 7,500 hectares in 1958.

The Cojuangcos have implemented land use conversions without consultation to “co-owners” farmer-beneficiarie s, which led to the construction of Luisita Golf and Country Club, Las Haciendas Industrial Subdivision, Luisita Industrial Farm, Family Park Homes Subdivision, Don Pepe Cojuangco Subdivision, St. Luis Subdivision, a 500-hectare Central Techno Park and 66 hectare for Subic-Clark- Tarlac Expressway (Sctex).

As massive LUCs reduced lands to be worked on by agri-workers, workload or man-days have been reduced and massive retrenchment and forced retirements have been implemented by HLI. As the economic well-being of the agri-workers are threatened by Cojuangcos’ management, they were compelled to launch a full-size strike on November 6, 2004 and followed the Hacienda Luisita massacre on November 16 which killed 7 striking agri-workers. #

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Dumagats launched Tanay-Manila caravan vs. Laiban dam

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. #

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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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