was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly
newsmagazine (www.bulatlat.com, www.bulatlat.net, www.bulatlat.org).
Vol. IV, No. 41, November 14-20, 2004
Benguet Residents Oppose Water Deal with Gold Producer
Baguio and Cordillera residents are crying foul over the water deal clinched recently by Benguet Corporation. Water which used to be free in Itogon town will now have to be paid for and there could also be adverse health effects, it was feared.
By Lyn V. Ramo
Northern Dispatch (Nordis)
BAGUIO CITY – Organized residents of Baguio and Cordillera are protesting the grant of bulk water contract to Benguet Corporation (BC) by the Baguio Water District (BWD).
Led by militant groups, the residents held a silent protest in front of the Baguio city hall Nov. 9 during the council’s regular session to seek the council’s support against the water deal.
“We will make our voices heard even as we stage a silent protest until authorities will heed us and stop the bulk water project,” said Chie Galvez, Tongtongan ti Umili (people’s forum) secretary-general and Pro-CONSUMERS convenor.
Galvez said that there is enough water in Baguio if only efforts at drilling and rehabilitating wells are made. “But BWD should see to it that the water is safe, sufficient and that no party is aggrieved in any deal,” she said.
The protesters warned that, among other economic and health effects, the water deal given to one of the country’s biggest mining corporations would result in the toxification of water in the city.
Geraldine Cacho of Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (ORNUS), an urban poor group said, “Madi kami iti narugit a danum. Agasem ta agiyegda ti danum nga adda’t makasabidong a laokna” (We’re against dirty water. It’s shocking they will be giving us a poisoned water).
Joining the Nov. 9 protest were of Anakbayan, National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP), League of Filipino Students (LFS), College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Student Christian Movement (SCM), the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) Tongtongan ti Umili(TTU-CPA), Gabriela-Innabuyog, COURAGE-Cordillera, Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera (APIT TAKO) and the Itogon Inter-barangay Alliance (IIBA).
Water for sale?
Nida Cupatan-Legazpi, APIT TAKO spokesperson and a resident of Gumatdang in nearby Itogon town where BC is planning to get its bulk water supply, told reporters that the villagers have not approved the bulk water project, as required by environmental law.
She fears that the meager water supply that residents now use for free may fall under BC’s control once the bulk water project starts.
BC, once a major gold producer in the world, earlier announced that it has secured 58 water permits and most of these involve water sources in Itogon.
Legazpi also said that the water deal would bring added burden for poor peasants in Itogon who eke out a living through small-scale lode mining production, farming and swidden gardening.
As a result of the protest, the city council invited people’s representatives to the citizens’ forum of the session where the Pro-CONSUMERS position paper was read. Representatives of the Local Water Utility Administration, BWD and BC have also been asked to appear before the city council to explain the deal.
Earlier, BWD Pre-qualification Bids and Awards Committee (PBAC) rejected BC’s bulk water bid after finding BC’s water sources are not enough.
The PBAC added that the Antamok open pit site which is the proposed reservoir is contaminated with lead, mercury and cadmium. Such highly toxic elements could contaminate the bulk water supply, PBAC warned.
A P7.3 million protest fee was placed by BC that obliged BWD Board of Trustees to reconsider and re-open the bidding process.
Roland Rabang, BWD Board of Directors and its Public Relations Officer, could not be reached as of press time to shed light on the issue. Nordis / Posted by Bulatlat
© 2004 Bulatlat ■ Alipato Publications
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