by Ed Lingao

Laiban Dam Project

laiban dam site from MWSS website

THE BIGGEST AND most costly dam project in Philippine history may yet turn out to be also the most costly single resettlement project so far.

Up to forty percent, or P20 billion of the P52-billion Laiban Dam project could go to the resettlement and rehabilitation of over 4,000 families from the eight barangays that would be submerged once the dam project pushes through.

A source privy to the unsolicited bid submitted by San Miguel Bulk Water Company to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) told the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) that San Miguel has committed to spend from $200 million to $400 million (P10-20 billion) on this cost alone, that is, if the firm is awarded the project. The resettlement will be undertaken by San Miguel through its social development arm, the San Miguel Foundation.

The high figure of P20 billion would already be twice the amount budgeted in the Project Cost Estimate approved by the National Economic and Development Authority Investment Coordination Committee, or NEDA-ICC for the Laiban Dam project.

approved project cost from MWSS website

approved 2006 project cost from MWSS website

In the approved project estimate, P7.4 billion was allotted for resettlement, and another P2.6 billion, for payment of right of way, or a total of almost P10 billion. By comparison, the actual infrastructure headwork, or the construction of the 113-meter high dam and the water tunnels, would cost P13 billion, or just a quarter of the total project cost.

“San Miguel (Foundation) has prepared an entire program for acquisition, and resettlement and livelihood,” the source said. “It’s a whole new package to address the usual issues in building a dam.”

The controversial project, which has gathered dust over the last three decades, aims to deliver an additional 1.9 billion liters of water a day to Metro Manila. But in doing so, the proposed Laiban watershed and reservoir would submerge seven barangays in Tanay. Rizal, and a barangay in General Nakar, Quezon.

Many of the affected residents from the barangays – Laiban, San Andres, Cayabu, Sto. Nino, Tinucan, Mamuyao, and Sta. Ines in Tanay, and Limutan in Quezon – are members of the Dumagat and Remontado tribes who consider the watershed area as part of their ancestral homeland. The village with the biggest population of 720 families is Barangay Laiban, where the dam itself will be located.

Unprecedented cost

Before Laiban dam, the most expensive resettlement project would have been the relocation of about 40,000 families for the ill-fated North Rail project in 2005. Back then, the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) had estimated the cost of resettling 40,000 families for the North Rail project at P6.6 billion.

In contrast, San Miguel’s P10-20 billion estimate for relocating residents to be affected by Laiban Dam is from 50 to 200 percent higher. This is even as the Laiban families, 4,413 in all, add up to just a tenth of the Northrail families.

One possible explanation, the source said, is that more and more people are trying to get their fingers into the pie because the Laiban dam project has been in the oven far too long.

In a visit to Barangay San Andres last week, PCIJ learned from local village officials that the affected barangays have passed a resolution pegging the compensation package for local residents at P3 million per family, and up to P5 million for those with extended families. This is aside from other incidental costs, such as expenses being claimed by village officials for coordinating and disseminating information to their constituents.

Ancestral Domain

The amounts being pitched by the residents are plain right-of-way quotations. These do not include as yet the cost of actual resettlement, and provisions for livelihood projects, utilities, and basic needs like water and power, and education for their children. A resettlement site in San Ysiro, Antipolo that was set aside in the ’80s for the affected residents now teems with families from other resettlement projects, Tanay officials had told PCIJ.

Using only the “low” figure of P3 million for each of the 4,000 families, the right-of-way bill alone would add up to P13.2 billion already.

In addition, Sofia dela Rosa , the kapitana of barangay San Andres, said that some residents, including herself, were now working on getting their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT) before the project starts. The residents believe that the CADT would add value to their property, and increase the compensation they could get from San Miguel..

“Growth” area

In truth, Laiban has become a paradox. The serial false starts that define the project’s 30-year history have come with interminable population growth in the affected areas. The eight barangays to be inundated by the dam are nestled in the Sierra Madre foothills, all barely accessible on rainy days, but all attracting bigger numbers of people by the year. Truth is, according to the residents, the mystery has unfolded with some help from local officials who have seen in the project’s delay as an opportunity to make money on the side.

“Some politicians are unscrupulous, and encourage more people to move in,” the source complained. “They told previous (bidders), just give us P200 million, kami ang bahala sa kanila [residents].”

The MWSS itself affirms the mystery of Laiban’s constantly growing population. “There are an increasing number of settlers there every year,” says Eng. Isaias Bongar, head of the MWSS selection committee now looking into San Miguel’s joint venture proposal. “[The more settlers there are], the more expensive it becomes.”

“Because of the delays, ang iba, bumabalik ‘dun, at nadadagdagan pa,” Bongar added.

San Miguel, he confirmed, has committed to assume the costs of right of way and resettlement and rehabilitation. “The private entity has the risk for dealing with such a problem,” Bongar said. “Wala kaming fund para ‘dun.”

No middlemen

When the project was conceived in the 1970s, there were only 50 families living in the watershed. By 1984, the population had grown to 2,567. Some of these families have also been given compensation, in part or in full, during one of the many aborted beginnings of the project.

Today, however, the source says that fully 80 percent of the population in the eight barangays may be considered squatters who moved in over the last three decades. The latest census in 2006 placed the number of families living along the Limutan and Lenatin rivers at 4,413.

At core, resettling the affected families remains the biggest hurdle for Laiban dam’s rollout. The source confirmed San Miguel’s representatives have been talking to village officials and the affected families as early as last year, as part of its due diligence process that began in October 2008.

The firm is hoping to deal directly with the families affected, in order to prevent middle men from stepping in and driving the costs up further. But assuming that it does bag the contract, there might also be another party that San Miguel has forgotten to bring into the equation: the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples or NCIP.

Laiban, too, is about ancestral domain claims, particularly for the Dumagat and Remontado communities whose rights to the watershed history, from centuries back, affirms without a doubt.

4 Responses to Costliest dam project also
biggest resettlement bill



June 27th, 2012 at 10:03 am

wag nyo nang ituloy pa ang proyektong iyan dahil ang bundok ng Sierra Madre ay magandang takbuhan ng mga taga Maynila lalu na pag sumiklab ang WWW 3!



February 6th, 2013 at 9:58 am

maraming mapipinsalang mga pananim at mawawalan ng kabuhayan ang mga settlers
sa Laiban kapag itinuluy ang ang proglema pa dyan ay siguradong hindi magbabayad ng tamang halaga ang NWSS sa mga katutubo at sa mga settlers.



February 6th, 2013 at 10:03 am

maraming mapipinsalang mga pananim at mawawalan ng kabuhayan ang mga dumagat at settlers sa Laiban kapag itinuloy ang Laiban dam projct.



October 7th, 2014 at 6:32 pm

ayusin nyo nalang yung Wawa dam, dyan nag mumula ang pagbaha sa Marikina, Cainta at Pasig

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