Tag Archives: storm Ondoy

Fishers say P 18.5 B Laguna Lake rehab plan a bailout to big business

By Billy Javier Reyes and Gerry Albert Corpuz

Manila, Philippines- Leaders of the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) on Saturday said the P 18.5 billion budget set aside by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) for the rehabilitation of the calamity stricken Laguna Lake is a bailout for companies conducting business operations around the lake.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair and SLLM convener Fernando Hicap said the rehabilitation plan appeared like a bailout for factories and industrial plants which will benefit from the construction of 5 lakeshore areas for wastewater treatment facilities and 4 sewage treatment plants.

“The cruel intention of Malacanang is to carry out the rehabilitation of big business affected by storm Ondoy. Now it appears to us that this rehabilitation project is nothing but a major bailout for all-time profiteers and exploiters and not for lakeshore people seeking a comprehensive pro-people rehabilitation plan in Laguna Lake,” added Hicap.

The P 18.5 billion Laguna Lake rehabilitation project aims to resolve flooding problems in the provinces of Rizal and Laguna province. Based on the initial plans of NEDA, the government will implement the dredging of the Laguna lake navigational lane and the entire 8-kilometer stretch of the Napindan channel.

The rehabilitation plan also includes the development of transport systems and service repair centers. Specifically, the program targets to build 12 ferry stations in several sites. The NEDA said the Laguna de Bay rehabilitation project is set to be implemented from 2010 to 2012.

The Pamalakaya leader also lambasted the plan of the government to borrow loans for the rehabilitation project, asserting that the project is meant to assist big corporations, but the Filipino taxpaying public will be the one to pay for the loans to be sourced from Belgian government under the Belgian’s Super Subsidy Program and other Belgian private banks.

“The loans from Belgian financial biggies which will be used for the water treatment facilities and transport needs of big businesses in Laguna Lake will be paid by the Filipino taxpaying public. Where is social justice here?” asked Hicap.

Earlier, leaders of various people’s organizations in Laguna Lake had 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,” Pamalakaya said.

The fisherfolk 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. Pamalakaya said the response was very positive and the filing of case against Arroyo and Manda may take place before the end of November.

“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,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya 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.lippines-

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Bayan Muna slams Palace refusal to stop debt payment

By Chocolate Moose Fernandez

Manila, Philippines- Bayan Muna party list Rep. Teddy Casiño slammed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for honoring fraudulent debts at the expense of the general public and Filipino taxpayers.

In a press statement emailed to The Pamalakaya Times, the activist lawmaker decried reports that the Macapagal-Arroyo government spent a total of P549.016 billion to service its debt from January to September this year.

The amount, according to Casino is two percent higher than the P537.352 billion it released last year for the same purpose. Some P235.283B of the total went to interest payments, slightly higher than last year’s P234.706 billion.

“After the devastation caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng worsened by the lack of government preparedness, it is shocking that the Arroyo administration still refuses to declare a moratorium on debt payments. These so-called ‘financial obligations” are nothing compared to government’s obligations to the Filipino people, millions of whom are worse off than they were previously because of the calamities,” Casiño said in a statement.

The Bayan Muna solon also castigated the government’s refusal to reorient the remaining section of its programmed payments for financial obligations for the rest of the year. For 2009, government aimed to allot a total of P698.5 billion for debt payments, 8.7 percent higher than the actual payout of P612.7 billion in 2008.

“It is an endless source of outrage that the Philippine government refuses to drop its debt payments when there are undoubtedly more urgent needs that should be attended to and provided for,” Casiño said.

“A debt moratorium is of utmost importance, as more funds are needed to hasten the rehabilitation are devastated areas and enable victims and survivors to get themselves back on their feet. The billions going to international banks and creditors should be given instead to local service infrastructure repair and creation,” Casiño pointed out.

Based on current data from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), the government released P61.277 billion for debt payments in September alone, higher by 1.87 percent from last year’s P60.149 billion allocation.

Interest payments to local lenders and foreign creditors were also exorbitant, with the former receiving P132.635 billion during the nine-month period, and the latter getting P102.648 billion from P93.379 billion paid out in the same period last year, an increase of 9.9 percent.

Principal payments amounted to P313.733 billion, or 3.66 percent higher than the P302.646 billion disbursed in 2008 during the same period. #

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(UPDATE)Pinoys in US opposed restrictions, taxes on relief aid for storm victims

By Jonna Baldres, contributor

Washington, D.C.–On Sunday, October 25, 2009, close to 100 Filipinos gathered in front of the Philippine Embassy to protest Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s directives on restricting and imposing taxes on relief aid for Typhoon Ondoy and other similar disasters. Protesters also condemned GMA for the documented 2,300+ state sanctioned human rights violations in the Philippines under her presidency.

The mobilization was organized by The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON–US) as a community action component to their annual national conference which carried the theme “Strengthen and Broaden the Rights and Welfare of Filipinos in the US.” The mobilization was followed by a Lobby Day on Monday October 26.

The rally included a march around the perimeter of the Philippine Embassy. Washington DC residents and visitors read placards such as “People First! No Tax on Relief Aid!” and “Stop the Killings! No US Tax Dollars for Military Aid that Supports Violators of Human Rights!” Speakers at the rally spoke on these issues and called on US Filipinos and allies to join NAFCON’s efforts.

President of NAFCON-US, Father Ben Alforque, underscored the historical significance of the October 25th mobilization, “This October 25th mobilization is a significant moment in US Filipino American History and Filipinos organizing our communities here in the US, in that not since the height of the anti-martial law movement in the 1980s, have Filipinos in such large numbers gathered in front of the Philippine Embassy in the nation’s capital to demand justice. Even more of an accomplishment is the strength of our alliance and the unity that members have in relation to the Philippine issues we are addressing.”

People First: No Tax on Relief Aid

There has been a national outpouring of aid and support from US Filipinos for the over 1.8 million victims of Typhoon Ondoy and other similar disasters in the Philippines that are linked to multinational corporations’ illegal mining and logging, deforestation, and land conversion. NAFCON-US has lead relief efforts under our BAYANihan campaign, raising over $15,000 in monetary aid and packing several hundred balikbayan boxes of donated relief goods through our regional offices. But, once again there is corruption in the Arroyo government’s profiting from disaster-prone policies as GMA imposed taxes on relief goods coming from the US and restricted the distribution of aid in the Philippines, causing a backlog.

In this time of urgent need for the vast majority of Filipinos impacted by Ondoy and other natural disasters, NAFCON-US appeals to supporters in the US to join us in our demand that GMA rescind her directives taxing and restricting disaster relief. The lives of the Filipino people should be her first consideration, not government profit.

No US Tax Dollars for Military Aid that Supports Violators of Human Rights

Philippine Attorney Rex Fernandez of Karapatan gave these facts to participants: “To date, there are over 1090+ extrajudicial political killings and assassinations, over 1000+ cases of torture, and over 250+ abductions of political, labor and environmental activists, religious leaders, and journalists that have been perpetrated by the Philippine military under the US backed presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Dozens of reports by international human rights groups such as Amnesty International, UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s findings, and even the yearly US State Department Report on Human Rights, and concrete cases including that of US citizen Melissa Roxas and Father Ben Lucero expose this situation.

Attorney Fernandez congratulated NAFCON-US for bringing together so many Filipino organizations to Washington, D.C. to address and take action on this urgent Philippine Issue. He encouraged NAFCON-US members to stand strong in their demand that the US should be ensuring that any military and direct aid contains restricted language and justice for the victims.

Overall those who participated in the NAFCON-US mobilization at the Philippine Embassy were pleased with the outcome. “The solidarity statements from NAFCON member organizations and analysis of the Philippine situation provided by speakers affirm the need for a national alliance of Filipinos that can address and support community organizing and advocacy work in our communities.

In order to strengthen and broaden the struggle for rights and welfare of Filipinos in the US, we must continue efforts to educate and work with our community, our allies, and our government representatives,” ended Mara Ibarra, NAFCON Vice President of Membership and Chapter Building.

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Raps ready against PGMA, LLDA chief

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.

Temptation Island

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. #

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Calamity stricken farmers burned 1,000 photos of surfing Gloria

By Lollipop de los Reyes and Billy Javier Reyes

Manila, Philippines-Some 1,000 reproduced photos of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo showing her surfing in Argao Island in Mindanao will be burned by calamity affected farmers in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog in today’s rally set at the footbridge of Mendiola in Manila.

Rally organizers led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK), Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and Anakpawis party list said the mass burning of the presidential photo taken during a surfing event in Mindanao is a collective display of rural people’s outrage against the Arroyo government.

“Arroyo’s land reform remains anti-farmer and super reactionary. The recently passed agrarian reform law known as Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms is a land reform for big landlords and big business,” said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos in a press statement.

The KMP leader added: “Complicating and exacerbating this long running nightmare is the seemingly endless episode of calamity and disaster perpetrated by the transnational clients of Malacanang and the unbridled greed of Arroyo and her gang for fat kickbacks.”

Ramos complained government relief and rehabilitation efforts for calamity devastated farmers and fisherfolk in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog were not that substantial to cause significant impact on the lives of calamity stricken people in the countryside. “President Arroyo is exploiting the sorry situation of the people for political makeover and image building purposes. That is catastrophe by itself,” he said.

The 1,000 farmers will be joined by another 1,000 Manila based activists mostly urban poor, workers and students during the scheduled long march from Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national office in Quezon City to Don Chino bridge in Manila. The marchers will include activists from the fisherfolk alliance Pamalakaya, Amihan peasant women federation, Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, the support group Nnara-Youth and member organizations of the umbrella alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

KMP and allied groups the rural people’s 10-pt demand to address current rural crisis across the country

1. The junking of Carper law and the free distribution of land to landless and land lacking farmers all over the country. In particular, farmers from Central Luzon represented by AMGL demanded the immediate and unconditional free distribution of 375 hectares of land in San Miguel, Bulacan allegedly landgrabbed by Rep. Luis Villafuerte, the 3,100 hectares of prime agricultural lands inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation and the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita owned by the family of the late President Corazon Aquino in Tarlac province.

In Southern Tagalog, peasant groups demanded the free distribution of all agricultural lands owned and controlled by rich families like the Ayalas and the Yulos in the region. Kasama-TK also pressed the government to stop all Calabarzon bred projects in Southern Tagalog, including the controversial Laiban dam project.

2. Support repair and construction of homes of farmers and rural people destroyed or uprooted at the height of tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng.
3. Rehabilitation of farms and granting of seeds and seedlings for rice, corn, vegetables and other farm crops
4. Financial grant of about P 10,000 to P 15,000 per hectare
5. Zero interest credit line to the Land Bank of the Philippines amounting to P 10,000 to
P 15,000 per hectare
6. Provisions for farm implements such as tractors, hand tractors and carabaos for free.
7. Setting up of potable water supply.
8. A halt if not moratorium on irrigation fees imposed by the National Irrigation Authority and private irrigation systems.
9. Livelihood to rural people
10. Automatic repudiation of farm debts, if not moratorium in payment of principals and interests on acquired loans from landlords and local financial institutions

The KMP official said they will campaign the 10-point omnibus demands by pursuing aggressive lobby work in concerned government agencies, including the Senate and the House of Representatives and mass mobilizations in the streets, asserting the immediate and long term demands are matters of life and death to farmers and the rest of the rural people.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported that damage to property brought by storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng reached the P 16-billion mark. The disaster agency said P 11. 68 billion of the damage or 72% represents total damage to local agriculture, while P 4.68 billion or 28 percent represents damage to infrastructure. #

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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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Militant farmers want PGMA charged on San Roque Dam fiasco

By Gigi Babon, Billy Javier Reyes and Bb. Joyce Cabral

Manila, Philippines- The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) asked farming families in Pangasinan province affected by “tidal wave like” releasing of excess waters by San Roque dam to file class suit and other appropriate criminal and civil charges against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, against managers of the multipurpose dam and officials of the state-run National Power Corporation (Napocor).

In a press statement, KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said President Arroyo under the principle of command responsibility is grossly liable for the scores of death and destruction in Pangasinan, and it is only legal and moral to have her lead the stellar cast of criminals behind the across-the-province massacre of peasant homes and rural economic and cultural life.

“We don’t care if she still has this presidential immunity excuse. That will not stop farmers from charging her before the country’s appropriate court. The proposal to deluge her with criminal charges along with top officials of San Roque Multipurpose Dam and Napocor is both legal and collective political exercise of people’s search for truth, justice and accountability,” the KMP leader said.

Ramos made the appeal to Pangasinan farmers to sue President Arroyo, a day after the Senate Committee on Climate Change headed by Sen. Loren Legarda agreed to help craft a protocol in releasing excess waters from dams following the incessant rain and devastating flooding that last week submerged 38 towns and cities in the province.

“Let’s call a spade a spade. This tragedy is intentional and can be rooted out to the eternal thirst for super profits of San Roque and Napocor, which has the seal of approval of the Office of the President. Now, President Arroyo wants to call her own version of investigation. What for? She should be at the center of the gathering political storm against San Roque dam and Napocor,” the KMP official said.

Sen. Legarda said her committee will summon all dam operators to another hearing on tomorrow to write the procedures prompted by back-to-back storms that hit Luzon over the past three weeks, triggered massive flooding and claimed 712 lives.

“We need to have a system or what we call a protocol in releasing water from the dams. We can’t rely on (dam officials’) ingenuity but on a clear scientific way,” said Legarda following a three-hour hearing last Wednesday.

Legarda said the mechanism was needed to prevent a repeat of the destruction and deaths caused by the sudden rise of floodwaters at the height of the onslaught of Tropical Storm “Pepeng” (international codename: Parma) just a week after Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (Ketsana) mauled Metro Manila.

But KMP said Sen. Legarda should now extend the invitation to legitimate stakeholders groups that include farmer organizations in Pangasinan, Tarlac, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, including peasant groups in other flooded provinces of Central Luzon namely Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Bulacan.

The peasant group said aside from peasant organizations, the chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change should also invite experts and advocacy groups to shed light on San Roque Dam that includes cause-oriented organizations that opposed the construction of the dam in 1998.

“Senator Legarda is well informed that San Roque Dam and Napocor officials who attended the hearing two days ago are President Arroyo’s alter egos, and like Mrs. Arroyo, these officials have no conscience and therefore their stories are tall tales, certified incorrect and grandiose lies. We appeal to the good senator to have the farmers speak for themselves and present their alternative and politically correct views based on their rich grassroots experience and knowledge,” the KMP added. #

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Militants to Loren: Slowdown on relocation of lakeshore residents

By Rey Manangan, Tootsie Roll Arcadia and Lollipop delos Reyes

Manila, Philippines- The lake wide fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and staunch ally- the multisectoral alliance Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) on Sunday said Senator Loren Legarda should slowdown on her proposal to relocate tens of thousands of fisherfolk and residents of lakeshore towns, including alleged illegal settlers at the mouth of the lake.

Pamalakaya and SLMM added this might be exploited by the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) which had programmed the conversion of the lake for private use and profit-driven activities at the expense of lake people and the environment.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said his group wanted to get in touch with Legarda, who chairs the Senate oversight committee on climate change, after they learned that she already agreed with LLDA General Manager Edgar Manda on the immediate relocation of residents without conducting first a public consultation with the affected people.

“We are aware of the honest and noble purpose of Sen. Legarda, her concern for the people and the environment, but the good senator should first consult the people, learn and understand their collective interest and current sentiment on the proposed relocation before subscribing to the suggestion of Mr. Manda, who is known in the Laguna Lake community as lapdog of big business, a certified puppet of the Office of the President, and a public official with cruel intentions against the people,” the Pamalakaya leader said in a press statement.

Legarda who ran in the 2004 election for vice-president and 2007 in the senatorial election was endorsed and supported by Pamalakaya for her outstanding advocacy on environment, peace talks and her gallant cause against the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

“To set the record straight, we have (been) anticipating the senator’s invitation for us to appear in the hearing of the Senate oversight committee on climate change, but up to now, no invitation was sent to our national office. Perhaps in the next hearing, the good senator will invite us to hear and know the real score coming from the lake folk and not from Mr. Manda alone,” Hicap added.

On Saturday, Sen. Legarda and Manda conducted an ocular inspection of the lake whose water level at the height of tropical storm Ondoy reached 14.5 meters from its normal level of 12.5 meters. She and the LLDA chief reached the poor community after inspecting flooded areas along Pasig River from Guadalupe in Makati City to Pasig.

Legarda said the LLDA had repeatedly warned the Lupang Arenda, a community of shanties built along the banks of the lake in Taytay, Rizal, was permanently at risk of flooding at every abnormal rise of the water level. She said the residents and the government should agree on permanent relocation site.

As many as 100,000 households in Lupang Arenda, Cainta and Pasig have been displaced by the abnormal rise in lake’s water level but Lupang Arenda residents have resisted relocation, telling LLDA that they had been paying fees to the National Housing Authority for a permit to stay in the reclaimed area.

Yesterday, Pamalakaya attended a meeting of calamity victims in Muntinlupa where tens of thousands of lakeshore residents and fishermen are still submerged in deep waters. The consultation among fisherfolk and residents was called by Bayan-NCR and the Muntinlupa chapters of party list groups—Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan Party and Akap-Bata.

During the consultation, Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz explained that the immediate cause of continuous flooding was the permanent closure of Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NCHS), a flood support structure, the prevented excess waters of Laguna Lake to flow into Pasig River on its way to Manila Bay.

“The people there are open for relocation provided that the following requirements will be addressed by the national and local governments—on city relocation that will provide decent mass housing for calamity victims, provisions for comprehensive rehabilitation projects and social services and the immediate yet productive creation of jobs for thousands of displaced residents,” he said.

According to Corpuz, Bayan-NCR and local chapters of progressive party list groups and urban poor organizations today will conduct a fluvial parade in Muntinlupa, that will include distribution of relief goods to several calamity stricken villages and clean up.

“Bayan-NCR and the people in the lakeshore side of Muntinlupa are doing their very best to address the immediate needs and demands under Kilusang Bayanihan movement. Sen. Legarda should involve them in the current hearing of her committee on climate change. They can speak on the matter more than Mr. Manda,” the Pamalakaya information chief added.

Earlier, Pamalakaya and Save Laguna Lake Movement urged leaders of the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives to also prioritize the legislative inquiry on Laguna Lake which is still under 14.5 meter deep since tropical storm Ondoy hit the country on Sept.26.

“Today is Oct.18 or about 22 days since storm Ondoy turned Laguna Lake into a virtual water world. Do we need 40 days before Congress takes up an inquiry on the ill-fated 90,000 hectare lake? Excuse us, but Laguna Lake, its people and environment are not dead entities waiting for 40-day ritual,” the groups said.

Pamalakaya added: “Let me remind our lawmakers that 30 towns and cities of Rizal and Laguna provinces and the National Capital Region were swallowed by Laguna Lake at the height of storm Ondoy affecting 2.2 million out of the 6 million fisherfolk and lake shore population. But the investigation is not moving as if the issue on hand is just a dime-a-dozen concern”.

The groups noted that only a handful of lawmakers agreed to their proposal for an all-out investigation on the current state of Laguna Lake. They are Senators Jamby Madrigal and Legarda in the Senate, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon and militant party list lawmakers Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casino and Neri Colmenaras of Bayan Muna, Luzviminda Ilagan and Liza Maza of Gabriela Women’s Party, Raymond Palatino of Kabataan Party and Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod of Anakpawis party list.

“The Senate has 23 senators and the House of Representatives has 255 congressmen. But only a few good men and women managed to rise above the occasion. It is not too late for the leadership of both Houses and their peers to come to their senses and start the ball rolling on Laguna Lake catastrophe,” added Pamalakaya.

The lake-based groups said Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles should discourage members of the Senate and the House from going into vacation or abroad and instead call for special sessions that will look into the impacts of storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng and root the causes of the twin catastrophe that plagued the almost entire island of Luzon. Both houses are set to have their recess on Oct.15.

“No more foreign trips please, and the lawmakers should continue their legislative work by pursuing these investigations in aid of legislation and by going back to their respective districts and find out the needs of their devastated constituents,” Pamalakaya added.

Prior to typhoon Ondoy, Pamalakaya and SLLM asserted that towns and cities surrounding the lake were already flooded. The groups attributed the flooding to the closure of the NCHS that prevented excess waters of Laguna Lake from passing through Pasig River on its way to Manila Bay. Both groups said at the height of typhoon Ondoy, the Napindan channel was still closed impounding more waters to the lake and later spilled to 30 towns in Rizal, Laguna and Metro Manila.

The Social Action Center of San Pablo City in Laguna said the mass flooding affected 20 towns of Laguna, excluding several towns in Rizal province and had displaced around 750,248 people mostly fisherfolk, farmers and urban poor.

The most affected towns are the towns of Binan where 45,125 families or 198,700 people were displaced, followed by San Pedro (25,606 families or 153,636 people affected), Sta.Cruz (20, 498 families or 102,590 people displaced) Sta. Rosa (14,951 families or 77,052 people displaced), Cabuyao (7,670 families or 46,001 persons affected), Calamba (8,024 families or 33, 819 people affected) and Los Banos (5,496 families or 29,730 people displaced.

Pamalakaya and SLLM suggested the following names and offices to be invited or subpoenaed for the congressional inquiry, whether separate or joint congressional inquiry.

Their list includes environment Secretary Joselito Atienza, Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) General Manager Manda, the governors of Rizal and Laguna provinces, mayors and local government officials of affected 30 towns and cities surrounding the lake, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the officials of Board of Investment (BOI), the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) and the Office of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita to represent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. #

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Rural groups cry foodless on World Food Day

By Roy Morilla, Gigi Babon and Gerry Albert Corpuz

Quezon City, Philippines—Four of the biggest rural based organizations in the country–the farmer’s group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the agricultural worker group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the Amihan peasant women federation on Friday declared “World Foodless Day” as the global people celebrate World Food Day.

The World Food Day is celebrated every October 16 after the United Nations (UN) established the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO)on the same day in 1981 or 28 years ago.

In a rally held at the Department of Agriculture, farmers and fisherfolk activists, KMP and allied groups said lack of food and hunger among food producers in the country has been a running nightmare among peasants and rural people all over the country.

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said landlessness is the principal reason why farmers and rural producers remain poor and hungry and injustice continues to thrive in every farming and fishing area across the country.

“Today is supposed to be 28th year of UN’s World Food Day. But there’s nothing to celebrate. In fact, our problems were further exacerbated by state sponsored calamities and disasters in partnership with their foreign clients,” added Ramos.

The KMP official was referring to the storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng and the mass flooding in Cordillera and Northern Luzon provinces, the Central Luzon and Southern Luzon region, including the current sorry state of Laguna Lake.

For his part, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap dared UNFAO officials to come to the country and investigate the government and big business destruction of major food baskets and food resources across the archipelago.

“It is high time for UNFAO to send its people to investigate the Philippine government and crimes of their transnational clients to the Filipino people. The request for UNFAO to dispatch a probe team to look into the serious food problem in the country is long overdue,” added Hicap.

KMP said the food problem was worsened by the two successive typhoons that recently hit the country. The peasant group said storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng already brought damage to agriculture and fisheries amounting to P 13.2 buillion, resulted to the death of 632 farmers and rural people and destroyed 140,156 houses in the countryside.

In the same vein, Pamalakaya complained that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is only interested in rehabilitating destroyed fishpens and bangus farms in Pangasinan and other parts of Western and Central Luzon, and agriculture secretary Arthur Yap did no mention of any help or assistance to small fishermen affected by typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng.

Secretary Yap will allocate P 2,500 per hectare for tilapia fishponds at 50 centavos per fingerling and P 1,750 per hectare for bangus farms at 35 centavos per fingerling, but he is silent to the legitimate demand of small fisherfolk for relief and rehabilitation.

An average of P 2,125 per hectare for 8,356 hectares of damage fishery areas, restocking could reach P 17.7 million. According to DA Central Action Center chief Maritess Bernardo some 5,000 tilapia fingerlings and bangus fries will be provided to affected fishponds and bangus farms in Central Luzon. Again there was no mention of small fisherfolk in the rehabilitation blue print of the agency.

“We are totally abandoned and neglected by Sec.Yap and his principal in Malacanang. We are the main fish producers in this country, but nothing is being planned to keep us maintain the wheel of production,” Pamalakaya added.

The estimated cost of rehabilitating damaged aquaculture farms in Central Luzon is part of the P 682 million fund earmarked by the agriculture department to repair damages to agriculture and fisheries caused by typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng.

On July, 2008, in the aftermath of typhoon Frank, our group submitted a proposal to DA and to the the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to accomodate the demand of the small fisherfolk for relief and production subsidies to small fisherfolk. A petition letter urging these agencies to set aside production subsidy of P 5,000 per fisherman who owns and operates a small motorized banca, while those operating non-motorized boat should at least receive P 2,500 per person was coursed to Secretary Yap’s office.

“This is to ensure that small fisherfolk can continue to operate and provide the fish needs of population. eighty percent of the proposed production subsidies will go to procurement of gasoline and fixing of damaged boats and fishery tools. But this demand remains in oblivion”, said Pamalakaya.

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Satur tells GMA: Prioritize homes for victims of Ondoy and Pepeng

By TC Concepcion, contributor

Manila, Philippines- Makabayan senatorial candidate Satur Ocampo on Friday urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to prioritize the provision of decent homes to the victims of storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng, describing his proposal as practical yet very urgent.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ocampo, also the Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives brought the issue up in response to reports that President Arroyo has given the go-signal for much delayed urban development project supposedly meant to relocate thousands of squatters and rearrange Metro Manila areas on a permanent scope. Part of the planned Metro Manila development project is the relocation of thousands of informal settlers living near rivers and creeks.

The militant lawmaker was referring to the 1977 Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Project, which Malacanang will use as a blue print for the extreme makeover of the National Capital Region that will entail the demolition of not less than 400,000 informal settlers in Manila Bay, Laguna Lake and in Marikina Valley.

At the Legislative and Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) meeting in Malacanang yesterday, administration Senator Edgardo Angara brought the idea fof changing the topography anf geography of parts of Metro Manila in the wake of Ondoy’s devastation.

In the study funded by the World Bank used by Malacanang, it was stated that development will be applied in three major areas: in the Marikina Valley, the western shores of Laguna de Bay, and the Manila Bay coastal area to the north of Manila.

“Thousands lost their homes along with almost everything else they owned. In the meantime, thousands more fear returning to the areas where they used to live out of dread that the next big floods can be worse. Already, experts see an increase in the number of slum dwellers disparagingly called squatters”, noted Ocampo.

According to the Bayan Muna solon asserted that poor people deserve safe, secure dwellings, and it is the government’s task to provide these. “We hope that Malacanang’s plans to rehabilitate Metro Manila will not be a cold-blooded and mechanical campaign to simply clear away the poor and drive them off to far-flung areas to build slum communities”, Ocamppo noted.

Random surveys reveal that majority of the victims come from menial and low-paying jobs — many are from the informal sector. The calamities have driven them to even deeper levels of penury. Urban poverty is certain to worsen.

Ocampo said that Malacanang should send a concrete blue-print for the urban development project to Congress. He also said that residents of Metro Manila especially the areas affected by the typhoon should be consulted on the changes.

“The government must not be allowed to add more injury to those already sustained by the victims. A genuine urban renewal and rehabilitation program prioritizes the welfare of residents — ensuring that they have houses and not hovels. Beautification is not merely planting trees, it’s building safe communities with easy access to water, sanitation and electricity services,” he said.

The Bayan Muna solon said that the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) should immediately find means to quantify the possible increase in slum dwellers and provide the government a ball-park figure on the extent of the work it must undertake. #

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