Tag Archives: typhoon Pepeng

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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Freedom Wall: Statement from the Cordillera People

October 30, 2009

Decommission the San Roque Dam and Rescind the Power Purchase
Agreement Now!

The flooding of Pangasinan at the height of Typhoon Pepeng was foreseen as an impact of the San Roque Dam. This was among the reasons why people protested against this Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) flagship project launched by then President Fidel V. Ramos and completed during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Agno River communities and the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance sounded this warning prior to dam construction, and reiterated it several times before dam completion, but it was not heeded.

Now that the flooding has happened, an independent probe of the management of the dam, as well as its purpose, capacity and operations, is urgent not just to ensure the accountability of those who are responsible for the devastation and loss of lives, homes and livelihoods, but also to enact measures that can prevent the reoccurrence of catastrophic flooding.

While we do not discount the fact that climate change and the volume of rain poured during Typhoon Pepeng have contributed to the calamity, we still hold accountable the persons who insisted on the construction and operation of the San Roque Dam.

Reduced Capacity for Water Storage?

PAG-ASA’s website stated that the San Roque Dam water level increased from 281 to 284 meters above sea level (masl) on October 4 and 5. It was at 289.1masl – 0.9 meters away from its 290 masl critical level from October 6 to 9.

Two hundred meters high and spanning 1.13 kilometers, San Roque Dam has a storage capacity of 850 million cubic meters. Ideally, it should be able to hold the volume of rain water poured during Typhoon Pepeng if not for the heavy siltation along the Agno River which is estimated at an uncontrollable 6.35 million cubic meters per year. Further siltation of the river due to persisting mining activities in Itogon and Tuba, Benguet has yet to be taken into account. If the reservoir water storage has been reduced due to silt deposition, as stated in the study of sedimentation along the Agno River and as experienced with the Ambuclao and Binga Dams, then this is one of the main reasons the dam gates were opened last October 9, releasing about 5,000 cubic meters of water per second at the height of the storm.

The heavy siltation would mean that a high water level would always be needed by the San Roque Dam for its turbines to produce energy. The decreased capacity for water storage would also mean that torrential rains would result in flooding at the scale experienced during Typhoon Pepeng or even worse. The probable maximum flood rate is placed at 12,800 cubic meters per second. This will inundate at least 1, 250 square kilometers of Pangasinan and Central Luzon, and will affect more than
a million people.

More Concerns

Trauma and anxiety caused by the devastating flood could not be easily addressed or calmed due to the fact that the San Roque Dam stands within the Philippine fault zone. It is close to where the San Manuel and San Jose faults converge before meeting with the Digdig Fault, which is only 26 kilometers away from the damsite. A major earthquake could very well result in a breach of the dam structure and flood the entire Agno drainage area, which includes more than half of Pangasinan, a portion of Tarlac, and a portion of Nueva Ecija.

Studies also show that earthquakes can be triggered by the volume of water and other materials held by the dam. Reservoir-Induced Seismicity (RIS) is a probability with large dams such as San Roque, which is the largest earthcore, rockfill dam in Asia. The weight of the reservoir’s content may put enough pressure on the ground and near the reservoir to cause a fault movement.

The Ramos administration considered the San Roque Multipurpose Dam a flagship project of the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) in 1996 to address the energy crisis in the 1990s. Since his administration to that of President Arroyo, the government has claimed that it the dam would generate cheap energy, improve water quality, provide irrigation to the agricultural fields in
Pangasinan and serve as flood control.

None of these has been achieved by the dam.

The energy production of the dam is at 85 megawatts – far from its potential 345 megawatts. We, the citizens, pay the fixed amount of PHP 806,852,000.16 permonth for its capacity fee and operating fee, aside from the energy fee that it charges. We pay this amount even during times when the dam does not produce electricity. These are the conditions in the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) signed by the government on our behalf, without our consent, drowning us further

Who Should Be Held Accountable?

It is not enough that Alexander Palada of the National Power Corporation was relieved in response to the calls against the San Roque Dam’s operations after the typhoon. Equally responsible is the San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC). The project was funded through Official Development Aid by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). All of these companies and institutions, and Philippine government officials, such as former President Ramos and current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, are responsible for the dam and should be held accountable for the devastation it caused. It is not mere mismanagement which caused the flooding but the very existence and operations of the San Roque Dam itself.

We Reiterate Our Call: Decommission the Dam and Rescind the PPA Now!

From its start in 1996 to its completion in 2002, we protested the damming of the Agno River for the third time. We cited its environmental impact and its social and economic costs. Residents along the Agno River, some of whom were displaced by the Ambuclao and Binga dams, were persistent in opposing the dam because of their experience. The flooding during Typhoon Pepeng should be a wake-up call for the government to decommission the San Roque Dam which is now also the position of the mayors of Pangasinan. The government should also rescind the disadvantageous PPA.

The Arroyo government, if it is sincere in protecting the people’s lives, properties, livelihood and environment should not wait for another storm or another wave of devastation before it acts. It should
heed what we have stated in our years of protests , the Agno River should be allowed to flow free.#

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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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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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Rural groups kicked off own relief caravan to Central Luzon

By Roy Morilla, Mama Mila Liguasan and TC Concepcion

Quezon City- Rural based groups headed by the farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis party list today kicked off a three-day, four-vehicle relief caravan in Central Luzon provinces billed as Peasant Caravan for Land and Justice.

Organizers of the 3-day caravan led by KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said the relief operations to be conducted in the provinces of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac is just part of the comprehensive political program to be carried by caravan protesters.

“The relief operation is just a segment of the entire political program. The main content of the 3-day peasant caravan is the peasant call and solidarity for genuine land reform and social justice and the presentation of the farmers’ 9-point omnibus demands for calamity victims in countryside,” KMP’s Ramos and Anakpawis’ Clemente said in a joint statement.

“Our demands clearly include about support in housing, rehabilitation of farms, grant of seeds and seedlings for rice, corn, vegetables and other farmers’ crops, financial assistance of about P10,000 to P15,000 per hectare, a credit line to the Land Bank of the Philippines amounting to P10,000 to P15,000 per hectare, tractors, hand-tractors and carabao, setting-up of potable water supply, one year or equivalent to the value of two successive croppings moratorium on irrigation fees to National Irrigation Authority and private irrigation systems and livelihood to seasonal farmworkers, ” the caravan leaders said.

As this developed, the relief caravan to be undertaken by Malacanang and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Monday, where a hundred of truckloads of relief goods will be make their way to Northern Luzon to aid victims of typhoon Pepeng was postponed due to typhoon Ramil. The government’s own relief drive is supposed to benefit 500,000 affected families.

Social welfare secretary Esperanza Cabral said the relief goods will be distributed to victims of Pepeng in 19 provinces in Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), but because of typhoon Ramil which is expected to hit Northern Luzon this week, the department decided to cancel Monday’s relief caravan to Northern Luzon.

KMP and Anakpawis in cooperation with allied groups Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Amihan peasant women federation, Nnara-Youth, Migrante International, All UP Workers Union and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines will only distribute a little over 400 relief packs for the same number of families in San Miguel, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

“Our modest relief efforts for our members in Central Luzon, particularly in San Miguel town in Bulacan, for Fort Magsaysay and southern towns of Nueva Ecija, and for the agricultural workers of Hacienda Luisita is one way of expressing our irrevocable concern for the peasants and the rural people devastated by the state and profit driven escapades. The political message is the more important thing which is genuine land reform, the solution to current predicament confronted by landless farmers,” the peasant caravan organizers added.

Today, KMP and Anakpawis caravan participants will stay in a peasant community in San Miguel, Bulacan and will have a solidarity night with farmers facing land dispute with Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, whom they accused of landgrabbing some 375 hectares of land in the area. They will also distribute 200 packs of relief goods to 200 farmer families.

Tomorrow the caravan will traverse the municipality of Gapan and the rest of the southern towns of Nueva Ecija on their way to Cabanatuan City to protest landgrabbing activities of big landlords inside the 7,100 Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur. Nueva Ecija. They will also hand out some 62 relief packs to the KMP chapter in Nueva Ecija. From Cabanatuan City, the caravan protesters will proceed to Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and they are expected to be at the sugar hacienda owned by the family of the late President Corazon Aquino by late afternoon.

KMP and Anakpawis said they will distribute some 158 relief packs to affected sugar workers in Hacienda Luisita.

On October 20, the caravan protesters will travel back to Manila, and will pass through several towns of Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan provinces namely Bamban and Concepcion in Tarlac, Magalang, Mabalacat and San Fernando in Pampanga, and Calumpit, Malolos and Bocaue in Bulacan on their way back to Manila.

On the same day, the caravan protesters will meet peasant protesters at the Department of Agrarian Reform for a solidarity night, and on October 21, they will march from DAR to Mendiola in Manila. #

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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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Think tank to PGMA: Cancel debt payment to free up funds for calamity relief

By Billy Javier Reyes, Bb. Joyce Cabral,Gerry Albert Corpuz and Viva Regala-Alonzo

Manila, Philippines–The independent think tank and research group IBON on Thursday urged the Macapagal-Arroyo government to cancel debt payments and free up resources for relief and rehabilitation, instead of seeking financial loans from foreign donors.

In a press statement sent to The Pamalakaya Times, IBON senior researcher and economic expert Sonny Africa said the environmental shifts mean that extreme weather events will become more frequent and there must be much greater investments in the country’s disaster preparedness.”

“Extreme weather conditions are beyond government’s control, debt payments are not,” he added. “It is the height of insensitivity of the country’s leaders if they dogmatically insist on repaying debt in the face of the multiple crises facing the country,” Africa explained.

IBON’s Africa said the Arroyo administration paid P1.52 trillion in foreign debt service, interest and principal, from 2001-2008. It is scheduled to pay a further P224 billion in 2009 and P253.5 billion in 2010. In contrast, the programmed calamity fund for 2009 and 2010 were just P2 billion annually.

This unceasing debt service, according to IBON, is undermining the government’s capacity not just to prepare for disasters, give relief and support rehabilitation after calamities, but also to meet the people’s basic needs for health, education and housing—which could have ensured their adaptability to extreme weather changes and resilience to calamities.

IBON asserted that the government has a range of options for debt cancellation, said Africa . It can start from identifying a target overall percentage of debt stock and corresponding payments to cancel. It can identify particularly loans such as any still left over from the Marco s dictatorship or others funding particularly onerous or anti-developmental projects.

The research advocacy and polling group likewise stressed that government can prioritize loans from multilateral development banks such as the World Bank or Asian Development Bank which, unlike commercial creditors, purportedly extend loans for developmental purposes.

IBON said: “The drastic economic slowdown especially with the onset of the global crisis, the looming fiscal crisis with deficits rising rapidly and now the calamities due to tropical storms Ondoy and Pepeng are enough justification to call for emergency cutbacks in foreign debt payments. More than trickles of foreign aid, debt cancellation would free up resources for relief and rehabilitation and for overall economic development”.

“This is an opportunity for the government to exert political will and cease being a mendicant in its dealings with foreign governments and creditors,” said Africa . “We Filipinos are fully capable of helping ourselves if only the government stops its self-destructive debt policy”, it added..

IBON reiterates successive governments including the Arroyo administration have vigorously opposed any debt moratorium, cancellation or repudiation on the grounds of protecting creditworthiness. However, this long-standing lack of vision in the government’s debt management policy has proven to be extremely burdensome for the people.

The position of IBON on debt cancelation was supported by the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

It pressed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to immediately stop paying the country’s debts to foreign and domestic creditors and re-channel the annual budget to debt servicing to massive relief and reconstruction efforts of all areas devastated by storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng from South to North of Luzon.

“Immediately suspending debt payment and by re-channeling these funds for all-out relief and reconstruction will definitely make sense, but our problem here is Mrs. Arroyo who has no sense of genuine public service, lacks political will and undeniably defiant in correcting fatal mistakes,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader said if the government will stop paying these debt burdens at the maximum or impose debt moratorium for a significant number of years at the minimum to rebuild the country it would be able to make a big difference for Filipino public, especially those affected by Ondoy and Pepeng.

Hicap said the government has been honoring fraudulent debts at an average of P 450 billion per year or almost 33 percent of the annual national budget.

“Imagine the big push this amount would bring only if this government knows its priorities and has this great sense of serving people. But this government is the partner in crime of transnational interests whose business escapades and super profiteering ideology is behind this humanitarian crisis and across-the-nation corporate-driven calamities,” he stressed.

Pamalakaya rejected the proposal of Albay Gov. Joey Salceda for the government to seek at least $ 1 billion in foreign grants and concessional loans to be administered by a special reconstruction commission composed of the government, big business and civil society group.

Salceda, the former economic manager of the Arroyo administration said it is time for the government to admit that it needs help in a big way beyond the exigency of disaster response, saying the country can no longer opt to raise taxes or slash other priorities. The Albay Gov. said the country needs new external resources to address the situation.

Under Salceda’s proposed 1 billion US dollar aid, the government would cover the estimated P 46 billion in damage wrought by Ondoy, P 12 billion by Pepeng and P 7 billion by typhoon Frank that devastated Panay island last year.

The proposal also covers P 20 billion for relocation, P 21 billion for infrastructure rehabilitation and P 5 billion for livelihood . But Pamalakaya said if the government suspends if not erases its debt servicing policy and budget allocations for such purpose, the country can afford to finance rural and reconstruction projects, including a comprehensive disaster management programs all over the country. #

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Expert wants San Roque dam operators, gov’t held accountable for Northern Luzon disaster

Expert wants San Roque dam operators, gov’t held accountable for Northern Luzon disaster

by Viva Regala-Alonzo.

Manila, Philippines- University of the Philippines (UP)-based expert and scientist Dr. Giovanni Tapang said the Philippine government, including private groups and operators of San Roque Dam in Pangasinan province should be held accountable for the massive flooding in the province and other parts of Northern Luzon.

Tapang and scores of scientists, environmentalists and social activists presented a study on the structural and managerial flaws of San Roque dam, that caused the severe flooding in several areas in Northern Luzon.

They also accounted for the country’s continuing disasters and the Arroyo government’s failure to provide a comprehensive, effective and adequate disaster response and prevention plan.

“The dams, particularly San Roque Dam, are supposedly designed and used to control floods. However, the floodings these infrastructures have brought us prove that they were not really designed for that function. These dams just brought profits for its proponents and more harm than benefit to the people,” said Tapang.

According to Dr. Tapang, the most devastated provinces of typhoon Pepeng are Pangasinan and Benguet provinces, as these are the areas where the large dams, that worsened the flooding, are situated. “Pangasinan is the catch basin of water coming from the series of large dams in the Agno River.

“Massive flooding in Pangasinan is caused and aggravated by the release of voluminous water from these dams,” explained Dr. Tapang.

Tapang asserted the three dams located along the Agno River are the Ambuklao Dam, Binga Dam and San Roque Dam. Based on National Power Corporation report a total maximum 6,000 cubic meters per second were being released by three dams as October 9 and is still continuing to release water today.

“The operators and owner of the dams should be held accountable. They have allowed the water to reach dangerously high levels and not acted on it sooner. Instead of releasing the waters earlier, gradually and in lesser volumes, they did it suddenly without adequate warning to the communities,” said Dr. Tapang.

Tapang theorized that the operators are probably thinking more of generating power and profits, they most likely have kept the water level as high as possible and have have not placed primary importance to their duty to give attention to the safety of the nearby communities.

San Roque Dam is the biggest of the three dams and designed as to produce energy, supply water and control flood. It is supposed to have a flood maximum design of 13,000 cubic centimetre or equivalent to floods occurring every 10,000 years. Despite protest in local and international level, San Roque Multi-Purpose Dam was approved in 1998. The dam construction was completed in March 2003 and became operational in May.

“If the dams were designed for flood control, then there should have been an alarm system in place or a protocol to warn the agencies and communities of impending disaster. However, the testimonies of the victims and the calamity that has occurred prove that the system was ineffective, if there was any,” he added.

“Communities and areas near large dam usually experience increase in frequency and more damages from flooding than other areas which are far from dams. After San Roque Dam operated in May 2003, 90% of Pangasinan were submerged in water in September 2004 and after that local communities frequently experienced flooding whenever there is a typhoon,” expressed Tapang.

“The extent of devastation that was caused by the presence of the dams and the deliberate disregard of the operators and owners to the communities in the area calls should lead to the decommisioning of the dams. Because as long as the dams remain, it is likely that the similar tragedies will occur in the future as it has done so in the past,” called Dr. Tapang.

For his part, Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) said the proponents of the dam itself, headed by the government should also answer to the millions of victims that were affected by the floods.

“The hundreds of lives lost, millions of families affected and billions of pesos worth of damages show the absence of planning and infrastructure of the government to address disasters. President Arroyo and the National Disaster Coordinating Council have blamed mother nature and climate change, the unprecedented rainfall, squatters, garbage and lack of budget but will not admit its fault and ineptness in handling and preventing the disasters,” claimed Bautista.

“In addition, to lack of disaster preparedness, the Arroyo government still pursues policies and destructive projects such as large-scale mining and large dams that destroy our environment and make communities more vulnerable and at higher risk to floods, landslides and other disasters,” cited Bautista.

“Again, we appeal to our countrymen and the international community to extend the bayanihan spirit that we exhibited in the face of disasters, in addition to joining relief operations, we should link arms to demand and push for a government that will perform its mandate to truly serve, protect and answer to the needs of the people and denounce the current one who only aggravates the suffering of our people, “ ended Bautista.

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