QUEZON CITY — As the nation marks an end to the period of mourning for former President Corazon C. Aquino, members of the Freedom from Debt Coalition and water consumer group PATTAK staged a protest action in front of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) office here, urging the administration of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to “do a Cory” by shelving the proposed construction of the controversial Laiban Dam project.

Proposed during the dictatorship regime, the 113-meter high Laiban Dam project was shelved under the administration of Mrs. Aquino due to environmental and financial reasons and opposition from the affected communities. The proposal was revived under Mr. Joseph Estrada’s administration and later aggresively pushed by the MWSS under Mrs. Arroyo.

Swelling opposition to the project led San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang to announce last September 2 that the company is putting the Laiban project on hold, a sensible move since they cannot do anything until the evaluation of their proposal being conducted by the MWSS is finalized.

For its part, the Freedom from Debt Coalition, in a position paper, urges the government through the MWSS to conclusively and finally abandon the Laiban Dam project, regardless of how it is proposed to be undertaken, whether as a joint venture project, a concessional loan, or as a state-funded project.

FDC believes that the proposal to proceed with the Laiban Dam project is borne out of a dangerous and flawed decision-making process that (1) was blinded by a dogged fanaticism to pursue large-scale trophy projects, (2) is based on shaky demand projections that encourage increased water consumption as opposed to water conservation, (3) and, neglected globally-accepted concerns and recommendations against large dam projects.

The group also believes that the Laiban Dam Project, if implemented, will not be beneficial to the people and grossly disadvantageous to the government, the group said. It will result in (1) large and direct injury to the local communities within and around the project area, (2) rate increases that are disproportionate to the perceived gains that general consumers will receive from the project, (3) the siphoning of budgetary allocations that are more gravely needed by other water sector concerns, and (4) with the government guaranteeing the risks, it  will further aggravate  the government’s debt stock and indebtedness and its precarious fiscal position.

According to environment groups, the proposed Laiban Dam is located in Mt. Irid and Mt. Angilo Important Biodiversity Area (IBA), an area declared as hot spot for conservation. Mt. Irid and Mt. Angilo are located on the boundaries between the provinces of Bulacan, Quezon and Rizal in the southern Sierra Madre mountains. As a mountain range, these mountains are two of the remaining densely forested areas in Sierra Madre.

Among the threatened species found in the area include the critically endangered Philippine Eagle, the Philippine Hawk-eagle, the Philippine brown dear, the Philippine warty pig and Luzon bearded wild pig. -30-

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