Monday, September 14, 2009

Letter of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Manila to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on the Laiban Dam Project

September 14, 2009

Dear Pres. Arroyo:

Greetings of Peace!

As Pastors, we are one with the outrage expressed by our people against the Laiban Dam project of your administration. The project is made worse with SMC’s offer of US $2B government guarantee with “take or pay” provision in a proposed Joint Venture contract with MWSS.

“In these trying times when uniting the people is more urgent, any project that can be a cause of suspicion and division should be avoided.” What may be perceived as common good of the present generation may turn out to be a cause of suffering for the next. Even with the best intention of providing more water to the people can spark protests when it ignores and violates framework for sustainable development, ethical and legal considerations.

The project will submerge 28,000 hectares of a biodiverse-rich forest-ecosystem, under a 113-meter high Laiban Dam. Moreover this dam is situated on top of a seismic fault line with historical record of 7.6 intensity. It will undermine the integrity of Marikina watershed reservation and violate E. O. 33 given on July 16, 2004, which bans the settlement, entry, sale or disposition of land in Marikina Watershed by relocating 12,728 upland (indigenous) people to Brgy. San Ysidro.

It will destroy the ecosystems of the towns of Gen. Nakar, Real and Infanta, like the more or less 3,000 hectares mangrove fish sanctuary and farm irrigation. Likewise, such actions will endanger Metro Manila of flooding, air pollution and intensify global warming and climate change.

People have the right to be provided with full information concerning the water program of the government, the terms and conditions of the private ventures, the biddings, etc. Unfortunately even NEDA, a government corporation has been in the dark on the arrangements entered into by MWSS and SMC. MWSS and SMC cannot invoke their right to confidentiality on a project imbued with public interest where public funds will be used in the process.

In addition, the project will violate various laws such as the Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) System, the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (“NIPAS”), the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act (“Wildlife Protection Act”),E.O. 33, and the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (“IPRA”).

Madam President, in their latest report, both Maynilad and Manila Water publicly declared systems losses of 69% and 20%, respectively, due to leakage problem, thereby, belying claims of water shortage. In the meantime, consider the possibility of rehabilitating Wawa Dam since it has served as the main water supply of Metro Manila for 60 years. With a watershed area of 27,980 hectares, it is capable of continuously discharging millions of liters of fresh water daily.

For the sake of the common good, we are requesting you, Madam President, to scrap the Laiban Dam project. Instead, let the government and its agencies focus their attention on the following:

1. Remedy the leakage problems of Maynilad and Manila Water;

2. Declare Marikina Watershed Reservation as Protected Area under the NIPAS Law;

3. Expedite Reforestation Efforts in Marikina Watershed to increase water capacity, provide carbon sink and mitigate the impacts of global warming and climate change.

4. MWSS to pursue its primary mandate of serving the people, the common good and working closely with environmental groups, LGUs, NGOs and POs. It must also provide avenues for public discussion and debate concerning a wide variety of water management options.

We advocate service for the common good and integrity of creation out of our love for life. We pray that we join our forces together for the sustainable development of our people. God bless you.

Sincerely,

+ GAUDENCIO CARDINAL B. ROSALES, DD
Archdiocese of Manila

+ BISHOP BRODERICK S. PABILLO, DD
Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
Chairman, CBCP-NASSA-JP

+ BISHOP HONESTO F. ONGTIOCO
Diocese of Cubao

+BISHOP FRANCISCO C. SAN DIEGO, DD
Diocese of Pasig

+BISHOP ANTONIO R. TOBIAS, DD
Diocese of Novaliches

+BISHOP DEOGRACIAS S. IÑIGUEZ, JR. DD
Diocese of Kalookan

+BISHOP JESSE E. MERCADO, DD
Diocese of Parañaque

+BISHOP FRANCISCO M. DE LEON, DD
Auxiliary Bishop of Antipolo

+BISHOP JULIO XAVIER LABAYEN, OCD
Bishop- Emeritus, Prelate of Infanta

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