Heavy social costs seen in revival of Laiban dam

Jun. 20, 2007

MANILA — The Arroyo governments plan to revive the controversial P47.93-million Laiban Dam project spell serious social costs for thousands of local residents and indigenous communities, according to independent think-tank IBON Foundation.

Malacaang recently announced that it would revive the mothballed project, which has been shelved for nearly 27 years, in order to provide water to Metro Manila and generate an additional 25 megawatts of hydroelectric power.

The 113-meter high rockfill Laiban Dam is projected to be as big as the San Roque Multipurpose Dam in Pangasinan, which reportedly was a factor behind flashfloods that submerged numerous towns in Pangasinan, Tarlac and other provinces in 2004.

The revival of the Laiban dam threatens to displace eight barangays with around 10,000 local residents along the Rizal-Quezon border and affect 27,800 hectares of agricultural land. It will also displace indigenous peoples (Dumagats and Remontados) from their ancestral land, their resource base and source of livelihood.

Moreover, while consumers are set to shoulder the payment for the projects funding, increased water supply and lower water rates are not guaranteed with the completion of the Laiban dam. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) promised to provide a 10-year term loan of US$1 billion loan for the dam construction under the build-operate-transfer scheme, and has reportedly released an initial US$3.26 million technical assistance to MWSS.

The development of vital infrastructure projects is important, but costly large dam projects such as the revival of the Laiban dam, which extract high social costs while not delivering the promised benefits are unwarranted. (end)

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