MANILA, Philippines – Reacting to news reports that San Miguel was putting its Laiban Dam ambitions on hold, advocacy group Freedom from Debt Coalition today challenged San Miguel Corp. President Ramon S. Ang today to make good his threat and formally drop the Laiban Dam “monster.”

FDC vice president Loretta Ann Rosales welcomed SMC’s acknowledgment of the bad publicity that the diversified conglomerate company has been getting from their negotiations with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

“What we'd like to see, however, is a formal end to these negotiations,” said Rosales, adding that the Laiban Dam project should be abandoned altogether, not just by San Miguel, but by the MWSS and its concessionaires as well.

In a position paper released to media a week ago, FDC declared its staunch opposition to the Laiban Dam project, urging the government to conclusively and finally abandon the 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.”

“There is no plan B or plan C here,” stressed Rosales, “there is only one acceptable option – Abandon the Laiban Dam.”

The Laiban Dam project, which San Miguel has been proposing to undertake through a joint venture agreement with MWSS, gained wide attention in early July of this year amid allegations of non-transparency and a 'take-or-pay' provision in the draft agreement between the MWSS and San Miguel.

News reports also quoted MWSS Administrator Diosdado M. Allado, saying that the dam project is supposed to address a looming water crisis in Metro Manila which would amount to a deficit of at least 1600 million liters per day (MLD) by the year 2015.

FDC, however, questioned the truth of MWSS' threats of an impending water crisis, labeling these to be “scare tactics” that are “based on weak assumptions.”

The group claimed that, with an existing water supply volume of 4090 MLD coming from the Angat Dam, there is more than enough supply to meet realistic projections for the next coming years. Instead of pursuing the Laiban Dam project, FDC cited several alternatives including the recovery of Maynilad's non-revenue water volume which currently stands at 69% or around 1400 MLD.

Maynilad president Rogelio Singson has also previously expressed doubts of a looming water crisis, stating that it is actually “an issue of reliability.”

Moreover, the group, citing an Asian Development Bank project completion report which was released July this year, revealed that the supply deficit projection for 2015 is only 480 MLD, contrary to the recent pronouncement of the MWSS Administrator that there will be a shortage of at least 1,600 million MLD by the same year. Said ADB report also cited MWSS as its source.

Meanwhile, local residents in the project site and downstream communities have also been appealing to the MWSS not to proceed with the dam project, saying that they have been expressing their opposition for three decades now. An estimated number of 4,413 families, mostly of the indigenous Dumagat and Remontado tribes, are at risk of displacement, should the dam project push through.

“There are real and devastating costs behind the Laiban Dam project which cannot be encapsulated by any financial cost-benefit analysis,” reminded Rosales. “Its a thirty-year-old nightmare that the MWSS needs to wake up from.” -30-

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