Comments on Philippine News March against Laiban Dam
By Rudy Arizala
May I refer to PH News: Protect Sierra Madre, Duterte told
Inquirer Mindanao, Inquirer Southern Luzon
08:49 PM June 5th, 2016.
LUCENA CITY—The list of problems that advocates of protecting the country’s longest mountain range want to present to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is long and old.
But Fr. Pete Montallana and Ramcy Astoveza see new hope for Sierra Madre in the incoming Duterte administration.
Montallana, activist priest who heads the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance (SSMNA), and Astoveza, a leader of the Agta tribe that calls parts of Sierra Madre its home, are asking Duterte to heed their call for tougher measures to preserve whatever is left of the mountain range’s forests.
Included on their wish list is a stop to logging and destructive farm practices, halt to the implementation of plans to build dams in the mountain range, suspension of plans to build more roads that would make Sierra Madre more accessible and removal of corrupt officials and employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
It is uncertain if their call would be heeded by Duterte, but if sources in the incoming President’s camp are to be believed, the Sierra Madre protection advocates are barking up the right tree.
According to the source, Duterte is also planning to head the DENR for at least a year and run the department with the help of a retired military officer.
This came after reports that Duterte had planned to nominate Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate as DENR chief but Zarate begged off.
“With his election as the next President, our people see in him a new hope to save our homeland,” said Astoveza, who heads an Agta community in northern Quezon.
Among the proposed projects that Astoveza and Montallana are opposing is the P18.7-billion New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project proposed by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.
It seeks to tap the Kaliwa River in the mountain village of Pagsangahan in General Nakar town in Quezon province for hydroelectricity and irrigation.
Aside from the proposed Kaliwa Dam, another dam is being planned in Kanan River, also found in Sierra Madre, that would be part of a P46.5 billion hydroelectric, wind farm and bulk water project.
Astoveza, also a member of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, said Agta leaders are wary of the projects because the proposed site lies between the Marikina and Real-Infanta fault lines.
In case of a dam break, water escaping from the Kaliwa Dam would flood a watershed area covering 9,700 hectares and displace 1,465 families, according to studies conducted by Montallana’s SSMNA.
SSMNA said rainforests hosting endemic and endangered species would also be buried underwater as these and sections of ancestral lands claimed by Agta, Dumagat and Remontado tribes would form part of the reservoir.
“This is a matter of life and death for us,” said Astoveza. Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon, and Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao
Dear BP (Ka Toto):This is an old but recurring issue which you already commented on in your previous columns in the Manila Bulletin. How about reviving it so that President-elect Duterte would be apprised of the problem of indigenous people of Sierra Madre in the towns of REINGNA (Real-Infanta-Gen. Nakar) in Quezon Province?
All the best, thanks and regards,