Save La Mesa groups: Polluting dam terrorism

Save La Mesa groups: Polluting dam terrorism
By Beverly T. Natividad
Last updated 05:58am (Mla time) 07/26/2007

POLLUTING the water supply constitutes “genocide” and is an act of terrorism, environmental groups claim.


The groups, led by Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, are preparing a class action suit to stop the planned construction of a housing project at the La Mesa watershed, saying it will pollute water supply and poison millions of Filipinos.


In a phone interview Wednesday, Madrigal said the petition for a temporary restraining order would be filed next week against the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in order to compel it to transfer its housing project to another location.


“We are filing this petition to oppose any kind of construction within the watershed. This is genocide,” said Madrigal, adding that if the administration of President Macapagal-Arroyo allowed this she would be “killing more people than Hitler” ever did.


She said the housing project was in danger of poisoning the La Mesa watershed which supplies water to about 12 million people.


It’s the law
“Even her anti-terrorism bill says it: If you tinker with the water supply, it is terrorism. So who’s the terrorist now?” Madrigal added.


Madrigal’s petition will be supported by some five million signatories to a campaign to bar the housing project, launched by the Save the La Mesa Coalition last year.


Renewed alarm over the planned construction project surfaced again after President Arroyo made a statement on July 18 that the La Mesa watershed is a “protected watershed subject to private rights.”


The statement, which has been interpreted as a show of support for the construction project, has alarmed environmentalists.


“We feel that the statement is hypocritical. If she says one thing then she should follow through. What she said was that the La Mesa watershed should be protected and then in the same breath, she neutralizes that statement,” said ABS-CBN Foundation managing director Gina Lopez.


The foundation’s environmental arm, Bantay Kalikasan, is part of the Save the La Mesa Coalition.


Lopez said that Arroyo should have just refrained from making any comments for the protection of the La Mesa watershed if she was not prepared to thoroughly support it.


“We feel the highest office in the land should be safeguarding our rights to a clean water and a protected environment. But here, she is saying in essence that the majority is subservient to private interests,” Lopez said.


She said she spoke to the President over the phone to clarify her statement and that Arroyo said that she recognized the housing project at the La Mesa since the sale of the land was done legally.


Arroyo noted that the project could be done without any danger of pollution since there are already available technology which could mitigate it, said Lopez.


No ways to mitigate pollution
Lopez, however, said that studies in the area showed that there were no ways to mitigate groundwater contamination.


Some 58 hectares of the La Mesa watershed area are being eyed as a location for a housing project for 1,411 MWSS employees under a collective bargaining agreement with the MWSS management.


Bantay Kalikasan’s opposition to the project used as basis a study conducted by Dr. Leonardo Leongson of the University of the Philippines-National Hydraulic Research Center (UP-NHRC).


“It will be in the best interest of MWSS and the general public who eventually utilize for drinking the water in the La Mesa Reservoir that the 58 hectares of the La Mesa watershed area being proposed for the MWSS housing project shall remain a protected watershed area and not be converted to a housing project area,” Leongson said.


Low regard for environment
The President’s proclamation of the La Mesa watershed as a protected watershed “subject to private rights,” and her appointment of ex-Manila Mayor Lito Atienza as the new environment secretary showed her “low regard for the environment,” said Donna Paz Reyes, executive director of the Environmental Studies Institute of Miriam College.


Arroyo’s passing mention of the environment in last Monday’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), specifically her declaration of natural parks, only bolstered this perception, Reyes told a gathering of environmentalists Wednesday.


“The Sona failed to address pressing major environmental concerns raised by a multitude of nongovernment organizations, people’s organizations and the Church,” she said.


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