By Billy Javier Reyes and Lollipop de los Reyes
Antipolo City-Leaders of the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) agreed to file criminal and administrative charges against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) chair Edgar Manda before the Office of the Ombudsman, whom they blamed as masterminds behind Laguna Lake’s swallowing of more than 30 towns in Rizal, Laguna and parts of the National Capital Region.
Since last week, leaders of Pamalakaya and SLMM had been conducting formal and informal consultations among fishermen, farmers and urban poor groups in Laguna Lake on the filing of class suit and other appropriate charges against President Arroyo and Mr. Manda. They asserted that the continuing closure of Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NCHS) was the immediate cause why majority of towns along Laguna Lake were and are still submerged to 14.5 meter deep since typhoon Ondoy stormed the country on Sept.26.
“The collective sentiment of the people in Laguna Lake is loud and clear– they hold the Office of the President and LLDA responsible for this across-the-lake calamity, and they want to bring them to court and to the court of public opinion,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.
Hicap, also convener of SLLM said their group had also consulted advocacy groups based in Metro Manila who are also organizing urban poor, women and worker groups along Laguna Lake about their plans to charge President Arroyo and Mr. Manda before the Office of the Ombudsman. He said the response was very positive and the filing of case against Arroyo and Manda may take place next month.
“The Laguna Lake people in particular and the Filipino people in general have a case against Arroyo and Manda, and this will be billed in contemporary history as People of the Philippines versus President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and LLDA general manager Edgar Manda,” the Pamalakaya official said.
Hicap said aside from Arroyo, other government officials will also be included in the charge sheet, but the Pamalakaya leader said they will reveal the names on the eve of the filing of charges against the President and the LLDA general manager.
Pamalakaya said aside from filing criminal and other appropriate charges, it will join forces with SLMM in the signature campaign calling for the immediate and unconditional dismantling of NCHS. The group said fisherfolk leaders and environmental activists have committed to initiate the campaign and gather signatures that will press the immediate removal of the controversial structure constructed in 1983.
The NHCS was built in 1983 to prevent or lessen the increase of salinity from Manila Bay and pollution from the Pasig River from entering Laguna de Bay during times of reverse flow. The NHCS is found on the confluence of Marikina and Pateros-Taguig rivers with Pasig River. This confluence is also the downstream endpoint of the Napindan Channel, which is the upper part of Pasig River that connects to Laguna de Bay.
Aside from preventing the reverse flow of Pasig River, the NHCS is also used for flood control. During the rainy season, most of the flooding along the Pasig River area is due to the increased water flow coming from Marikina River.
The Manggahan Floodway in Pasig City was constructed to divert much of this water from Marikina River directly into Laguna de Bay. By also closing the NHCS during times of rain, the water is effectively dammed in Laguna de Bay preventing it from flooding the downstream portions of Pasig River.
Yesterday, Pamalakaya, party list group Anakpawis and Oplan Sagip Kanayunan in cooperation with church groups affiliated with the protestant National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Task Force Dambana and the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) kicked off a relief drive in Barangay Ticulio, in Cardona, Rizal, which is part of Talim Island in Laguna Lake.
The relief drive billed as Operation Temptation Island bannered the theme “Relief, Relieve, Survive” was joined by 30 volunteers who helped in the distribution of relief goods of 500 packs for the same number of fishing families in flooded sitios of Cavite, Poblacion, Tondo, Sapang Palay and Masangkay, all in barangay Ticulio, in Cardona, Rizal.
Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz clarified that Operation Temptation Island is not a remake of a classic campy film in the 80s known as Temptation Island directed by the late director Joey Gosiengfiao for Regal Films which starred Dina Bonnevie and former beauty queens Jennifer Cortez, Azenith Briones and Deborah Sun.
“Talim Island is a total paradise because of its natural beauty and nearness to the mainland of Rizal and Laguna provinces. Real estate developers and land speculators are very much eager to grab lands in the island because of its tourism potential. In fact, Malacanang has marked Talim Island for flagship eco-tourism projects,” Corpuz explained.
“The objectives of our relief drive are to provide immediate relief to the people of Talim Island, inform island people about the root causes why Talim Island and the entire 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake are in shambles and what to do to address the current problems posed by the highly critical water level in the lake,” the Pamalakaya information officer added.
Upon reaching the small fish port in Cardona, relief participants from Manila took a 30-minute boat ride on their way to Barangay Ticulio where they were met and assisted by Barangay officials and Pamalakaya-Rizal chairperson Romy Antazo. #