THE peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today called on the House of Representatives to probe President Aquino’s pet dam project saying the “project was well-funded” despite its threat of displacement and environmental destruction in the province of Tarlac.
The KMP demanded a no-holds barred probe on the Balog-Balog Dam project after it became a basis of the “public humiliation” suffered by National Irrigation Administration (NIA) head Antonio Nangel on the occasion of the agency’s 50th anniversary.
“We all know where Aquino’s frustration is coming from,” says KMP secretary general Antonio Flores adding: “the Balog-Balog dam project is a pet project of the Cojuangco-Aquinos for the benefit of the biggest sugar plantation in Tarlac called Hacienda Luisita despite opposition from farmers due to the dangers posed by the project to the lives of the residents and the environment.”
“Worst, the Balog-Balog Dam project will deprive farmers of the land they are tilling,” the KMP leader said.
The dam, dubbed the “Balog-Balog Multipurpose Project,” was envisioned to provide irrigation to 39,150 hectares of farmlands in the Tarlac towns of Concepcion, Gerona, Pura, Ramos, Paniqui, La Paz and Victoria, and the city of Tarlac. It was also supposed to mitigate flooding in low-lying areas and provide upland communities with the opportunity to pursue inland fish production on the dam’s 2,004-ha reservoir.
Flores said that “from 2002-2013, a total of P2.18 B was already allocated for the Balog-Balog Dam project by the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) budget (2002-2009) and the General Appropriations Act (2010-2011).”
“For this year alone,” Flores said, “another P532, 992,000 was allocated by Republic Act 10352 or the General Appropriations Act of 2013.”
“Billions of public funds were already spent for this anti-peasant project. Saan na ito napunta? A no-holds-barred probe on this multi-billion project is in order,” the peasant leader said.
The KMP said that “residents of San Jose and Capas in Tarlac are opposing the project because it will only cause the destruction of the environment since the project will result in the closure of the Busa River to create a more than 2,000-hectare reservoir with capacity of 625 million cubic meter.”
The peasant group also said that communities in Sta. Juliana, Capas, Pantol, Pisapungan, Pula and Pilyen are also prone to flashfloods because the Buyboy River will be affected by the water level since the landmarks set by NIA in Pantol were placed at the middle of the mountain which is way above the houses in the communities.
“Tarlac City, Paniqui, Moncada, Concepcion and LaPaz are also vulnerable to flooding,” says Flores.
The KMP called for an immediate stop to the Balog-Balog Dam project saying “it is a serious threat to the livelihood of more than 500 residents and could worsen the problem of landlessness in the province of Tarlac.”