School kids chip in for anti-dam campaign
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INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON
Inquirer Southern Luzon : School kids chip in for anti-dam campaign
By Delfin Mallari Jr.
Posted date: September 19, 2007
LUCENA CITY – Schoolchildren in northern Quezon towns are contributing a few pesos of their daily cash allowance to help fund a campaign against government dam projects in the Sierra Madre mountain rivers and avert a possible environmental disaster.
“Grade school children have all been made aware of the importance of their signatures in the petition,” Pol Derillo, board chair of the Metro Infanta Foundation (MIF), said in a report posted in the group’s website over the weekend. “Some of them even made a vow to contribute a portion of their ‘baon’ just to show commitment.”
Chyrralenin Suapero, a Grade 2 pupil of the Disciple Christian School in Infanta, said she was aware of the danger posed by the dams once these are completed. “I’m afraid that it will again bring floods to our town. I don’t want that to happen,” she said in Filipino.
Aside from signing the petition, Suapero said she contributed P5 from her P20 daily school allowance to support the anti-dam campaign. “My schoolmates have also affixed their signatures. Some of them also gave portions of their allowance. And we’re all willing to contribute more to stop the dams,” she said.
Her aunt, Shirley Valenzuela, said the girl had been extremely afraid of the prospect of their town being flooded again. “Their house was fully submerged during the 2004 flash floods. Only the roof was left visible in the flood,” she said.
In November 2004, landslides and rampaging floods from the Sierra Madre submerged most parts of Infanta and General Nakar towns, killing hundreds of people and destroying millions of pesos worth of property.
Since last month, the environmental group Task Force Sierra Madre (TFSM) has been conducting a signature drive among the residents of Real, Infanta and General Nakar (RIN) to stop the government’s plan to resurrect the Laiban dam project and construct the Kanan B-1 dam for a proposed hydroelectric plant.
Derillo said the signatures would be submitted to President Macapagal-Arroyo and other concerned government officials.
“Before we asked the people, especially the schoolchildren, to sign the petition, we fully explained to them the contents of the document. The teachers painstakingly clarified and translated every word of the petition to their students for their full understanding,” he said.
The Laiban dam, a project of the national government and the Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System, is designed to divert water from the Kaliwa River in the Sierra Madre and augment supply to Metro Manila.
It was supposedly part of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ plan of building an industrial complex in northeastern Luzon, but due to strong opposition from indigenous peoples, it was shelved. Only two diversion tunnels are left and serve as reminders of the aborted project.
The Kanan B-1 dam is intended to harness the resources of the Kanan River for a hydroelectric plant.
The Kaliwa and Kanan rivers are major tributaries of the Agos River that runs along General Nakar and Infanta.
One of the main arguments against the projects is that these lie between the Marikina and Real-Infanta fault lines.
Derillo warned that the dams could bring floods to the RIN area, particularly Infanta, considering the size of the Laiban dam and its water-holding capacity.
The Laiban dam will be 113 meters high and 500 meters wide, and its vast water reservoir can cover seven villages in Tanay, Rizal and Barangay Lumutan in General Nakar. The Kanan B-1 dam is smaller but with a diagonal tunnel that will run towards the northern area of Sierra Madre where the turbine to generate electricity will be constructed.
The risk arises from the fact that both the Laiban and Kanan B-1 structures will be 20 and 10 kilometers away, respectively, from the Infanta fault line, according to Derillo.
During an Intensity 7 earthquake, the dams might crack and submerge the whole of Infanta, he said.
Citing studies conducted by three Chinese scientists sent by the United Nations to Infanta in 1996, as well as data from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Derillo said the cracks in the fault line are active and might have a direct link to the Intensity 8 earthquake in 1880.
He noted that the whole RIN area suffered an unprecedented destruction to as far as Mauban town in the south and Intramuros, Manila, in the west.
The bell towers of the San Agustin Church and the Manila Cathedral were broken during that earthquake, Derillo said. The first churches in Infanta and in Mauban were also destroyed, he added.
“Given the risk of losing human lives, destruction of property and the continued disintegration of the environment, every resident should weigh these consequences with the so-called progress and/or even with the highest proof of structural integrity of the projects,” he said.
“Why gamble human lives in the name of progress when the safety standards are highly vulnerable to compromise, oversight and corruption?”
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