Groups rejects $ 10-million loan from World Bank
LAKE-based groups led by the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and the umbrella alliance Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) on Saturday rejected the $ 10-million loan from World Bank in connection with Laguna Lake rehabilitation project.
Instead of entertaining foreign loans checkered with sinister agenda and cruel intentions, the Philippine government through the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) should with fisherfolk and other affected residents in “fish talks” to determine the appropriate solutions the long-running chaos of environmental destruction and loss of people’s livelihood in the 94,000 hectare Laguna Lake,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.
World Bank country director Bert Hofman country director clarified to the Belgian Embassy in Manila that the loan was not meant for dredging but to finance project pertaining to reduction in industrial waste water, treatment of household water, improve collection of solid waste and some minor investments in eco-tourism to generate employment.
On December 6, 2010, Malacanang and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officially rescinded the P 18.7 B Laguna Lake Dredging Project with the Belgian contractor Baggerwerken Cloedt En Zoon (BDC) because it was a midnight deal entered by the previous administration.
“For the ‘fish talk’ to proceed, the national government should first drop the 10-million dollar loan from WB and scrap the P 200-billion ring dike project that would cover 100 kilometers circular stretch of the lake before calling a multiparty consultation on how to rehab the 94,000 fragile lake and scrap its immediate plan to demolish 400,000 families along the lake,” the Pamalakaya leader said.
From there, the fish talks can now line up substantive agenda that would address the issues of the lake people and the comprehensive rehabilitation of Laguna Lake. We cannot rehabilitate the lake without the participation of the people sourcing their livelihood and living along lakeshores. They are part of Laguna Lake’s biological and environmental life,” Hicap added.
Pamalakaya and SLLM leaders the proposed the ‘fish talks’ in response to LLDA’s call for all stakeholders in Laguna Lake— the small fisherfolk, the owners of factories, aquaculture operators, concerned government agencies and officials and private interests to sit down and discuss a strategic and effective master plan to save Laguna Lake from further destruction.
“We ask Rodrigo Cabrera- the general manager of LLDA to refrain from pushing a master plan authored by and designed for big private interests in Laguna Lake. The rehabilitation of Laguna Lake should spurn privatization and denationalization. The talks should be between LLDA representing the state and the lake people opposed to massive displacement and grand sellout of the lake,” they said.
Pamalakaya warned President Benigno Simeon Aquino III of a looming across-the-Laguna Lake war against the proposed 100-km dike project in Laguna Lake that would cost Filipino taxpayers some P 200-B in hard-earned taxes.
“War is in the offing with the wholesale massacre of fishing livelihood and displacement of 400,000 families or nearly two million people surrounding Laguna Lake. This stern warning is hereby served to Malacanang, their partners in crime and to the inutile LLDA. If Aquino, the LLDA and his Public-Private Partnership (PPP) clients want war, we will give them war,” the group said.
Pamalakaya said the 400,000 fishing and non-fishing people of Laguna Lake to have no recourse but to prepare for a major battle of a lifetime. The group said Malacanang and LLDA are hell bent in pursue the 100-kilometer ring dike around the lake.
“P 200-B is P 200-B. It appears to us that everybody in the Aquino administration wants to become a millionaire and that is freaking bad to the fishermen, to the community folks surrounding the 94,000 hectare Laguna Lake and to the 95 million Filipinos,” the group added.
The SLLM said the P 200-B ring dike project is worse compared to the canceled P 18.7 B Laguna Lake Dredging Project. “Now everything is clear. Aquino wants his own terms with the regards to all rehabilitation projects in Laguna Lake. He prefers P 200-B and not P 18.7 B. That is the term of Mr. Aquino,” the alliance said.
Pamalakaya and SLLM said their chapters in Rizal and Laguna provinces and the National Capital Region (NCR) will strategize their own battle plan to confront this biggest money making project of the Aquino administration.
The Pamalakaya and SLLM leaders asserted that the 100-km ring dike project was connected with the Lakeshore Park Development which will call for the construction of four gridlocks that will make use of the dredged silt from the 90,000 hectares surface area of the lake.
They said reclamation will be undertaken to collect revenues from sale of the reclaimed land for commercial structures and other businesses and pave the way for the construction of the 220 kilometers baywalk along the shoreline. Pamalakaya and SLLM also said the government will make use of Laguna Lake to build more government offices in designated areas including port facilities for navigation of ferries/water transport, and will set up cable cars from Taytay to Mt. Makiling and Mt. Caliraya passing Talim Island for tourist attraction.
In a press forum held at Club Filipino recently, Cabrera said the ring dike, which would fence the circumference of the Laguna de Bay, was picked as a top priority of the agency’s new leadership after it carefully studied schemes how to deal with the flooding, human settlement, and domestic and industrial pollution in the lake.
The LLDA chief said the construction of a dike, which may cost more than P200 billion, could be carried out side by side with the relocation of at least 300,000 families who have been living along the lake shores and the river banks of its tributaries.
“This will be built like a mega-dike with a height of four meters to increase the holding capacity of the lake. We are sure this will have a major impact in the region,” Cabrera added.
Cabrera said that instead of assigning a contractor to do the work, the government would place the dike project under the public and private partnership program, which would require projects to undergo a public bidding.
A transparent bidding process would remove worries of overpricing and corruption, he added.
The LLDA, he said, was promised $2 billion by a “Chinese group” to finance the dike project. Cabrera, however, did not provide details since talks with the business group were still ongoing at the time he spoke about the project to media.
Cabrera said the government would form a committee composed of officials from LLDA, the Department of Public Works and Highways, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, and the National Housing Authority to study and execute the plan.
He said the construction of the dike, which would likely take 10 years, would fast-track the restoration of the lake and bar illegal settlers from encroaching on its shores.