Laiban Dam a costly, needless project: Indigenous people, water advocates hold protest at MWSS

The MWSS is expected to award the P52-billion dam project to bidder San Miguel Corp. (SMC) soon but the group reiterated that there is no need to construct the Laiban Dam.

Members of the Water for the People Network (WPN) marched and held a protest outside the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to voice their opposition against the Laiban Dam project. Inside the MWSS office, the group’s representatives also attended the dialogue with regulatory officials to determine the status of the Laiban deal.

The group showed its support for WPN member organizations No to Laiban Dam and Kalipunan Ng Mga Katutubong Mamamayan Ng Pilipinas (KAMP), whose members will be directly affected by the construction and operation of the Laiban Dam project.

The MWSS is expected to award the P52-billion dam project to bidder San Miguel Corp. (SMC) soon but the group reiterated that there is no need to construct the Laiban Dam.

For one, 15% to almost 60% of water coming from the current sources– the Angat and Umiray dams– is lost to leakages. Maynilad alone is still wasting as much as 1,400 MLD of water, 13 years since it took over the west zone of the MWSS service area. Addressing these systems loss caused by corporate neglect and profit-oriented water services may already wipe out any projected increase in water demand.

According to the WPN, the MWSS and SMC are misleading the public by claiming that there will be a deficit in water supply and demand in Metro Manila and nearby provinces by 2015 if the Laiban Dam project is not pursued.

The group urged the MWSS to drop the P52-billion mega-project of SMC because its construction will displace around 21,000 farmers and indigenous people in Tanay, Rizal and General Nakar, Quezon.

Constructing the Laiban Dam will further marginalize the poor water consumers through more exorbitant rates because of provisions for guaranteed profits (whether take-or-pay or other schemes) as stipulated in the proposal of SMC. An earlier estimate by Maynilad shows that provisions in the Laiban Dam may increase Maynilad rates by an additional P10 per cubic meter or a 37% hike.

The WPN reiterated that the Laiban Dam is clearly a costly, unnecessary project that will only financially benefit SMC while causing serious harm to farmers and indigenous people in Tanay and Quezon. At the same time, it will aggravate the basic problem of lack of access to water services by poor consumers in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, who have already seen water rates go up by as high as 449% (Maynilad) to 845% (Manila Water) since the MWSS privatization in 1997. (end)

The Water for the People Network (WPN) is a nationwide multi-sectoral alliance of various groups campaigning for people’s control over their water resources. IBON is part of the network secretariat.

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