IBON to MWSS: Stop SMC venture in Laiban dam project

SMC chair Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr.

SMC chair Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr.

Due to issues of corruption and cronyism, independent think-tank IBON Foundation Inc. tells the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to stop the joint-venture proposal of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and the bidding process, aimed to revive Laiban dam project.

IBON said the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) released a report revealing that San Miguel Bulk Water Co. has submitted an unsolicited joint-venture proposal to build and operate the P52-billion ($1,077,385,282.45) Laiban Dam in Tanay, Rizal and favors alleged Arroyo crony SMC chair Danding Cojuangco.

The report also said the deadline for rival bidders of SMC is last July 8, but MWSS only made an announcement on July 2, making the project almost a done deal for SMC, added the independent think-tank.

“In truth, the Arroyo administration has been trying to revive the Laiban dam as early as 2003 when it listed the project for Asian Development Bank (ADB) loans, and later for a $910-million-loan from China. As in many anomalous infrastructure projects under the Arroyo government that are marked by allegations of corruption such as the NBN-ZTE, IMPSA, Piatco, Northrail, World Bank road projects etc., the Laiban project could possibly contain concessions that may prove profitable for a few Arroyo allies,” read IBON statement to media.

It added the SMC proposal is the latest attempt to revive the project after the MWSS abandoned it in 1989, but the deal is reportedly lacking in available public data.

IBON stressed, that the MWSS should fully disclose details of the joint-venture deal especially since the impact of the project on water rates will be effectively shouldered by consumers.

IBON fears, the deal might contain questionable details such as a guaranteed fee provision similar to the controversial CE-Casecnan Multipurpose Project which required government to pay for 20 years whether or not water is actually delivered.

In addition, the cost of rehabilitating the Laiban dam includes the displacement of about 10,000 residents, including Dumagat communities. The project will also affect around 27,800 hectares of ancestral and agricultural lands, IBON said.

The Laiban dam project is opposed, mostly by the Dinagat and Remado tribes, since its inception in the 1960s up to the mid-1980s by the late dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos. However, the project was shelved because of the strong opposition of the people in Southern Tagalog, only to be revived in 2003 by the current administration.

The research agency questions the supposed water shortage as a reason behind the Laiban dam revival.

“In the first place, the perceived water shortage in Metro Manila should have already been addressed if private concessionaires Manila Water Company Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. only fulfilled their long-standing obligation to improve the infrastructure of the water system,” IBON statement furthered.

IBON, a convener of the Water for the People Network, says that, above all, the joint-venture deal should be cancelled because it allows private corporations to manage the Laiban dam and further gain control over the country’s water resources. (First appeared at CBCPNews.com)