USAID-led Laguna Lake project: Social-Ecological disaster in the making: Page 2 of 4

Posted on 3 November 2016

that many of these social costs simply were not considered to be real costs, due to overriding private interests in the project.

A Laguna Lake Authority (LLA) document entitled “Laguna de Bay Basin by 2020” reported that the project would require the eviction of 6,800 families in barangay Malabanan in Biñan, 4,800 families in Sinalhan in Santa Rosa, at least 60,000 families in “LupangArenda” in barangay San Juan in Taytay, Rizal. Another 10,440 families in the informal settlements situated along the shoreline would also be displaced. The total “relocation cost” has been calculated to be ₱200,000 (US$4,000) per household, bringing the total eviction costs to approximately ₱6.5 billion (US$144 million) for 80,000 households. [3]

In this accounting for the displacement, however, significant costs are not included, particularly the social costs of the undemocratic procedures by which eviction is often implemented. For example, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission, in eviction and demolition efforts that took place in Taguig in March of 2015, a 300-member team jointly consisting of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Public Order and Safety Office (POSO) “confiscated whatever little personal belongings the household[s] had like kitchen utensils, blankets, papaya trees, wood, lumber, and padlocks.” [4]

There is a tendency to consider these procedures distinct from the PPP project itself, as incidental occurrences during the implementation. However, the institutional context is a critical part of any assessment and should be identified as a constitutive social cost inherent to PPPs.

In the Philippines, a crucial institutional contextual issue for PPPs is the PPP Act, particularly its alternative dispute resolution (ADR) system, which places constraints on the legal options available to those who contest either the project itself or the state-initiated procedures accompanying it. For example, these constraints include the prohibition on the issuance of Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) against PPPs by local courts. Given that TROs have been issued by the Supreme Court against actions of PPP project concessionaires (e.g., those of the MRT and LRT), the prohibition of similar recourse in local courts in cases of legitimate risk to communities constitutes a significant loss of the democratic space. Therefore, while confiscation and displacement may not appear necessarily linked to PPPs, [5] the legislative context that determines the rights of those implementing PPP contracts (and the relative lack of rights of community members) are enabling factors that permit injustices for affected populations.

In addition to mass displacement, reasons that might justify the issuance of a TRO in relation to the LLED project have been identified by a coalition of at least five Catholic dioceses. They have “vowed to support other faith-based groups and people’s organizations in opposing the project.” [6] Concerns relate to unaddressed safety and environmental hazards, ones that find support in studies by, and consultations with, geologist Kelvin S. Rodolfo. Put concisely, “[i]f the project is constructed and protects Metro Manila from lake-water floods, people living elsewhere along the lake will suffer, simply because the flood water will have to go somewhere.” [7] The greatest threat, according to Rodolfo, is an earthquake. Because of the proximity

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