“There is nothing wrong with airing disapproval and explaining opinions on why the Ahunan Hydropower Project should be shelved. The purpose of such discussions that locals have is to raise awareness and discourse over the matter at hand. Is there something that the proponents are trying to hide that Daisy has probably discovered.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Progressives denounced the arrest of 68-year old environmental defender Daisy Macapanpan who was arrested on June 11, Sunday.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, called for the immediate release of Macapanpan who, she said, is “a victim of warrantless arrest and unjust detention based on false charges, which are seen as reprisals on her advocacy work for the environment and her community.”
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment described Macapanpan’s arrest as overkill.
Macapanpan was arrested in her home in Pakil, Laguna reportedly by 24 policemen.
In an online press conference on June 12, Macapanpan’s relative, Ryan, Macapanpan just came from a meeting in a church in their town in Pakil when the police came to their residence.
According to Kalikasan, Macapanpan has been leading the opposition against the construction of Ahunan Pumped-Storage Hydropower Project on top of the mountain in Pakil, Laguna.
Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan, said that there is nothing wrong with airing disapproval and explaining opinions on why the Ahunan Hydropower Project should be shelved.
“The purpose of such discussions that locals have is to raise awareness and discourse over the matter at hand. Is there something that the proponents are trying to hide that Daisy has probably discovered,” Dulce said.
The said project, according to Dulce, will be constructed in Mt. Inumpong of the Sierra Madre mountain range along Pakil, Laguna. He said that the biodiverse area also has water resources flowing from the Dakil river ecosystems, including the Sirena Falls.
He said that the Ahunan Power Inc., a joint venture of tycoon Enrique Razon’s Prime Metro Power Holdings Corp. and JBD Water Power Inc., is one of the proponents of the hydropower project that will affect 300 hectares of land.
The project will result in more flooding brought about by larger typhoons in floodplains along the shores of Laguna de Bay. The location of the said project is also prone to landslide, said Dulce.
Agham (Advocates of Scientist and Technology for the People) said the proposed project is envisioned to produce 1,400-MW electricity. The group said that the water from the Laguna Lake will be pumped into a reservoir on top of the Sierra Madre in Pakil which will be dropped thereafter to produce hydroelectric power.
They said that the residents fear that the hydropower dam will affect their source of drinking water as well as religious practices in the natural pools in Pakil.
“The construction of the Ahunan hydropower dam will also involve the destruction of trees in Sierra Madre, which will also affect wildlife. The destruction of forests will also increase the likelihood of landslides and heavy flooding,” the group said in a statement.
The group recognizes that the Ahunan hydropower dam is seen as a renewable energy source that could become an alternative to coal-fired power plants. “However, the development of such renewable energy sources should not be at the expense of the environment and people. Additionally, such renewable energy would still be under the control of a private corporation, thus cheap electricity prices are still not guaranteed,” the group added.
More arrests foreseen
Ryan denounced the ill-treatment of her aunt by the arresting officers.
“Some of the policemen who did not have name patches and were carrying firearms, forcibly entered the house of my aunt Daisy. She was alone then. I tried to run to her because I was afraid they might kill her and say that she fought back. The police won’t let me. They were able to get my aunt. Male police officers carried her through her arms and feet and forcibly took her to their mobile,” Ryan said.
He added that the police did not wear body cameras and did not present any warrant of arrest.
Karapatan said it was only when Macapanpan was at the Quezon Provincial Police Office in Camp General Nakar, Lucena City when she learned that she was charged with rebellion for an incident in Infanta, Quezon.
Karapatan added that the charges against Macapanpan and other activists in Southern Tagalog were filed in 2008.
“The rebellion case filed before the Regional Trial Court Branch 65 in Infanta, Quezon was the same case levelled against peasant organizer Dana Marcellana, daughter of peasant leader Orly Marcellana and slain human rights worker Eden Marcellana, who was arrested last year,” Palabay said in a statement.
“At this rate, this rebellion charge may be used repeatedly against activists in Southern Tagalog as the government continues its harassment against activists and government critics,” Palabay added.
Agham meanwhile expressed their alarm over the increasing number of rights violations against environmental and land rights defenders as the President Duterte’s term is about to end.
“Prior to Daisy’s arrest, at least 90 agrarian reform beneficiaries and peasant advocates were illegally arrested in Tarlac. With the worsening global climate crisis, it is imperative that the government afford protection on environmental defenders who serve as frontliners in protecting and conserving the environment,” the group said.
Palabay meanwhile said that they believe that the policy of repression and terror will continue under the new government following the mass arrests of farmers and supporters in Tarlac as well as the preparations for president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s inauguration including restrictions on rallies and mass actions.