Letter to Gov. Perez

PAGTATAP Foundation, Inc.
c/o Robert Peter Alojipan
OPD, Makati Medical Center
Makati, Metro Manila

November 21, 2002

The Honorable Sally Zaldivar-Perez
Governor of Antique
San Jose, Antique

Dear Madam:

Because your roots are from Pandan, Antique, I know that you can identify with me and can relate to what I am saying in this letter.

Not too long ago, we were able to stop MMDA from dumping Metro Manila’s garbage on Semirara Island. It took every bit of our determination, stamina, and courage to topple MMDA. Now, while we are still healing from the battle scars from our encounter with MMDA, we are yet again facing another enemyÖ NAPOCORÖthat wants to relocate its rejected diesel power plant from Luzon to Patira, Pandan.

If NAPOCOR’s diesel power plant materializes in Patria, we might as well say goodbye to our peaceful, healthy existence, our clean air, our beautiful beaches, our birds and fishes, our coral reefs, our lush greeneryÖthe quality of life that is uniquely our own. What will replace our utopia will be the pollution of our sea, water, land, and air; dirt, oil and soot to sully our landscape; cleared groves; noise instead of birds singing; sickness and respiratory diseases; death and destruction everywhere. Then it will be too late. The die is cast, harm has been done, and there is no turning back.

So I ask, “What NAPOCOR ‘jobs that will improve the economy’ are they talking about? How many jobs will be created and how many of our kasimanwas will they employ? Is that a justifiable exchange for the massive loss of their lives and wanton destruction of their property and environment? Are human lives to be equated with a few pieces of gold? Where do justice and righteousness come in because this is a blatant disregard for a person’s right to his life and property?”

After so many years of waiting for a Presidential proclamation to make the Northwest Panay Peninsula a Natural Park, President Macapagal-Arroyo finally granted it last April 25, 2002. She declared the site as a “protected area” due to its importance as the only source of potable water for three municipalities; has the last significant tracts of lowland rainforest within the West Visayas Biogeographic Region; it harbors diverse species of both flora and fauna that include critically endangered birds and mammals unique to Panay Island; and it was identified as an Extremely High-Urgent site for conservation of the county’s biological diversity. The area has also been described as “one of the precious jewels of the country” (Philippine Headline News Online, April 25, 2002).

The President’s proclamation has supposedly ensured the protection of our Northwestern Panay Peninsula. But that didn’t stop NAPOCOR from proposing to build a power plant near the “protected area.” NAPOCOR does not have any ownership and kinship to the land and no feeling of belonging to it, so it doesn’t care whether our Natural Park and its significance to us eventually gets destroyed. But for us, it’s losing a part of what we are.

We have gathered sufficient research to convince us of the devastating effects of a power plant to the environment. We also have statistics to prove that countless people have paid a heavy price with their health and their lives from pollution due to diesel exhaust. Here’s from just one source alone: “Fine particles are a mixture of a variety of different compounds and pollutants that originate from power plants.” “Children, the elderly and people with existing respiratory diseases face the greatest risk from exposure to the fine particles, according to several scientific studies cited in the report.” “More people die as a result of the pollution from these plants everywhere than from drunk driving and homicide.”(Clean Air Task Force, “Death, Disease and Dirty Power,” Oct. 17, 2002).

PAGTATAP are the Pandananons who are taking care of their less fortunate kasimanwas so they don’t get lost in the rubble, thrown to the wolves, or brought to slaughter. We reach out to them and say, “We’re here.” We make sure they are safe in their own home, in their own land and in their own world.

Our Pandananon pride has been provoked and we will only be appeased if and when NAPOCOR gives up the idea of a power plant in our domain. We are saying “NO” to NAPOCOR and this not negotiable. The few who are in favor of the power plant are the misguided souls who get blinded by false gold and empty promises. But their day of reckoning will come.

As our Governor, please ask NAPOCOR to take its power plant elsewhere. We don’t want it in Patria. We don’t want it anywhere in the Northwest Panay Peninsula. If we fought hard to block the Semirara dumpsite, we will fight harder yet to stop NAPOCOR from building that diesel power plant in our area because our very own lives and precious land are at great risk.

“Justice is to give to every man his own.” (Aristotle). This is all we ask, and this is all we want. This is not too much to ask because we (our kasimanwas) do not have much. But for what we are and for the little that we own, it’s the breadth and width of our existence. It has always been ours anyway, so how can we be wrong? How can it not be fair and just? Please let us keep our own. Let justice and righteousness prevail.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) Robert Peter Alojipan, M.D.
President, PAGTATAP Foundation