Fears raised over rise of more dams

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LUCENA CITY—A tribe leader in northern Quezon expressed fears the Aquino administration would allow the construction of dams in Sierra Madre in the wake of the death of Agta tribal chieftain Nap Buendicho, who had led protests against the Laiban Dam in Rizal province.

Agta tribe leader Ramsey Astoveza said after Buendicho’s death two weeks ago, representatives of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) have been conducting a series of meetings with local government officials of General Nakar town to build dams in their area.

Astoveza said aside from the stalled Laiban Dam project, the MWSS also plans to build two more dams in the Sierra Madre rivers.

The P48-billion Laiban Dam project has been in the pipeline since 1978 but has been shelved several times by MWSS amid strong opposition from indigenous Sierra Madre communities.

Astoveza said the dam proponents are apparently fast-tracking the dam construction after Buendicho’s death as they now have men in the field doing various kinds of surveys.

General Nakar Mayor Leovigildo Rozul said by phone on Friday that he was with local officials, farmers and tribe members who attended the MWSS consultation in the town last week but have not given support to the dam projects.

“We’re still evaluating the project and what it will bring to our community and how would it affect the Sierra Madre,” he said.

MWSS administrator Gerardo Esquivel recently disclosed that the water agency has lined up to P100 billion worth of major infrastructure projects this year in a bid to ensure a stable water supply for Metro Manila.

Studies done by the prelature of Infanta and environment groups said the Laiban Dam would displace at least 4,000 families from seven mountain villages.

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