Costly press release

Bad artists copy but good artists steal.

That’s Pablo Picasso talking, not some Philippine corporation out to snatch a venture known as the Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project (LLRP), which was the subject of four years of study conducted by Baggerwerken Decloedt En Zoon (BDZ).

Malacanang has scrapped the P18.7-billion project by way of a press release issued by presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda last Friday.

This dredging project had the guarantee of the Belgian government and was thrice affirmed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as beyond reproach, something that wise guys at the Palace and their backers simply don’t believe.

BDZ has already tagged the cancellation of the project to clean up the 94,900-hectare lake as
“unprofessional” since it had not been informed about it and the announcement came after Rodrigo Cabrera, general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), had told fisherfolk in Laguna that the project is only being reviewed and not scrapped.

“How can you cancel a contract without officially informing the other party?” Detilleux asked. “We have not been informed that the contract we have signed with the government has been consigned to the trash bin,” the Belgian executive stressed.

Detilleux, an environmental lawyer, said there would be some nasty implication for the Friday flap. He knows whereof he speaks since it was the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that signed the contract and not Malacanang.

For several months now, a gaggle of politicians and some groups have vilified the project, to the extent that some of them claimed that dredging would cause flooding and that the entire lake would be privatized.

However, the people living around the lake insist that there is no harm in deepening the lake and improving its water quality and increasing its holding capacity.

In fact, they claimed, a deeper Laguna de Bay would boost fisheries and improve mass transport from the lake to Manila through a ferry system.

Why do we have to demonize a project that would also reduce the possibility of another Ondoy wreaking havoc on the Lake Region and even Metro Manila?

Once they get the notice of cancellation, BDZ vowed to use all legal means to secure compliance with the terms of the contract.

It would be tragic if the policy of this government is to scrap projects like this simply because they were approved by the previous regime since the current administration has no franchise over wisdom and even good science and engineering.

Good governance requires that every project should be assessed well, and the fact is that practically all government institutions involved in the contract confirmed that they could not smell something fishy about LLRP and thus approved the same.

A midnight deal is not something that was studied for four years by scientists and engineers and found to be necessary.

President Aquino should reconsider the cancellation of the project aired by his underling and start thinking deeply about the bad consequences of an act that came a day after he had promised foreign investors that he would pamper them.

Better still, he should know that people living around the lake want it and had wanted it to be done 50 years ago, when the lake was not yet a huge septic tank that it is today. Joel Paredes


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