Dam projects put 100,000 people in danger, says group
LUCENA CITY—The intensity 5 quake that shook Quezon province and other areas on Thursday triggered renewed warning that the government’s dam projects in Sierra Madre would lead to a disaster that could kill up to 100,000 people.
The Thursday quake, which was also felt in parts of Metro Manila, “serves as a reminder to us all that the threat posed by the dam projects is real,” said Zander Bautista, assistant executive director of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance (SSMNA), a group opposing the dam projects.
The Philippines sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire where continental plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
SSMNA is a multisectoral network of indigenous peoples groups, nongovernment organizations, religious and other individuals working for the conservation and protection of the Sierra Madre mountain range.
Bautista said he feared that once the dams are in place and another strong quake occurs, thousands of indigenous people and residents in northern Quezon would be killed.
“The government should stop the dam projects and instead find safe alternatives,” he said. He urged Congress to investigate.
Fr. Pete Montallana, SSMNA president, said the lives of more than 100,000 people in the towns of Real, Infanta and General Nakar should take precedence over the projects.
“Lives of people are more important than business,” he said.
The priest urged the government to divert the billions of pesos in funds for the dam project to conserve forests and find alternative solutions to Metro Manila’s water supply woes.
The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has been pushing for the construction of the P18.7-billion New Centennial Water Source (NCWS) dam project in Sierra Madre’s Kaliwa River.
The proposed dam might submerge the mountain village of Pagsangahan in General Nakar, flood a watershed area of 9,700 hectares and displace 1,465 families, SSMNA studies showed.
The government is again pushing for the construction of Laiban Dam, a component of the NCWS project. It was shelved in 2010 amid strong opposition from indigenous Sierra Madre communities.
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