Laiban Dam - New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWS), Quezon, Philippines

Since more than 30 years, thousands of indigenous, threatened to be displaced from their ancestral lands, are resisting the Laiban dam project, planned to solve a corporate water crisis created by urban Metro Manila


Plans to construct a dam in Tanay municipality have been proposed since the late 1970s, during which the first feasibility studies were conducted, partly supported by the World Bank. The project, then termed Manila Water Supply III Project, became soon after known as Laiban dam, due to its location in Barangay (village) Laiban. It was to be designed and implemented under the responsibility of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) [1]. However, the project became soon controversial due to its impacts on the Sierra Madre primary forest ecosystems and indigenous communities, who opposed the project since the beginning. In the years to come, the Laiban dam was several times approved, deferred, canceled and reapproved (for a detailed chronological overview see [1]).

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Basic Data
NameLaiban Dam - New Centennial Water Source Project (NCWS), Quezon, Philippines
ProvinceRizal province
SiteBarangay Laiban, Tanay Municipality
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Laiban dam would be 113 meter high, having a capacity to supply 1,800 million liters per day (MLD) [4]. Construction costs are estimated to amount to PHP52 billion (around 1.2 billion USD) [5].

The reservoir size would cover 28,000ha; the number of displaced families was recently reported to be 3,708 [4] or 21,000 persons [5]; earlier reports stated that 4,413 families would be affected [1].


The World Bank supported first feasibility studies during the 1970s. Project design studies during the 1990s were conducted by consultant Electrowatt Engineering. A short term loan over 1 million USD to start with the immediate implementation was granted in 1999 by the Philippine National Bank. In 2001, MWSS entered into Technical Assistance Loan agreements with the Asian Development Bank, which however was later on cancelled on request of MWSS, who instead received funding via two concessionaires. With this funding, in 2006, consultant Daruma started to prepare work for projects bids and tenders. In April 2007, NEDA ICC approved the project with a total cost of PHP 48 million, to be funded under the China Loan, however was later on (February, 2008) instructed to cancel the project. MWSS thus pursued the project through another procedure, the Joint Venture Agreement scheme, via external companies applying for due diligence preparatory. Private company CalEnergy showed first interest, but then withdrew from the project. In September, 2008, SM Bulk Water Company Inc. (subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation) signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the conduct of due diligence preparatory. In 2009, a call was released in which companies were invited to submit proposals for the design, financing, construction and operation of the Laiban Dam Project under a Joint Venture Agreement, however the application period expired without interested proponents [1].

In the recent years, the MWSS was expected to award the Laiban dam project to the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) [4;5].
Project Area (in hectares)28,000
Level of Investment (in USD)1,200,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population21,000 persons to be displaced
Start Date11/1978
Company Names or State EnterprisesCalEnergy Philippine Operations from Philippines - energy industries
Electrowatt-Ekono (philippines), Inc. from Philippines - engineering, consulting
DARUMA management & consulting from Philippines - consulting
SM Bulk Water Company Inc. from Philippines - water industries
San Miguel Corporation (SM) from Philippines - food, manufacturing, infrastructure, energy
Relevant government actorsMetropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS); National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Investment Coordination Committee (ICC); Public Private Partnership (PPP) Center, and others
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Philippine National Bank (PNB) from Philippines - finance, banking, investment
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSamahan ng mga Katutubong Dumagat at Remontadong Nagdadamayan sa Northern Quezon (Sakadre); Bigkis at Lakas ng Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan (Balatik); No to Laiban Dam; Kalipunan Ng Mga Katutubong Mamamayan Ng Pilipinas (KAMP); Water for the People Network (WPN); Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance Inc. (SSMNAI), comprised of: Ecowaste Coalition; Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (FMMJPIC); Franciscan Movement Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (FMJPIC); Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (SFIC); Great Work Movement; Green Convergence; Green Hope; Greenresearch Environmental Research Group (Greenresearch ERG); Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (JPICC-AMRSP); Multi Sectoral Action Group (MSAG) Aurora; Order of Friar Minors Conventual Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (OFMConJPIC); Order of Friar Minors Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation (OFM JPIC); Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA); Public Education & Awareness Campaign for the Environment (PEACE), Miriam College; Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society Inc. (SSMESI); Samahan ng mga Katutubong Agta na Ipinagtatanggol at Binabaka ang Lupaing Ninuno (SAGIBIN LN); Social Action Center - Antipolo (SAC); Task Force Sierra Madre (TFSM); Tribal Center Development (TCD)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Indigenous Dumagat, Remontado, Agta tribe
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationReferendum other local consultations
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Development of a network/collective action
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Public campaigns
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Refusal of compensation
Media based activism/alternative media
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
OtherPotential increases of water-borne diseases, such as Malaria
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseInstitutional changes
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesAs published in a position paper by Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance (SSMNA) [6], the large coalition of Civil Society Organizations proposes the following:

“Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance (SSMNA), in its advocacy against mega-dams, recommends, first and foremost, a genuine comprehensive, participative and corrupt-free program for the restoration of our watersheds and forests. The Alliance sees the National Greening Program of the present Administration as a false solution, not to mention, as just another venue for the rampant corruption within the DENR. Together with this, SSMNA also pushes the passing into law of the Forest Resources Bill which prioritizes the protection of our remaining forests. Budget for forest protection must also be increased. Any reforestation program would be irrelevant if forest protection, which should include genuine logging moratorium as well as mining moratorium, is not seriously prioritized.

SSMNA also strongly recommends uncorrupted repairs and improvements of the already existing dams, including the entire water pipe system. Of the 4,000 MLD capacity of Angat Dam, around 1600 MLD has been recorded as Maynilad and Manila Water’s combined “non-revenue” water or NRW (water leakages). When Maynilad and Manila Water took over our water system, they promised to lower the NRW to 32% by 2007. Has this promise been fulfilled? If the present non-revenue water would be reduced, we would have more water supply.

SSMNA also sees the need for a water conservation policy which would check the lifestyle of all consumers, exhorting them to responsible consumption and conservation of water. Water recycling and rainwater harvesting could also be considered in the formulation and promulgation of such a policy.”
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The affected communities have successfully resisted for over 30 years, which can be seen as a success in environmental justice. However, the dam continues to be on the priority list of Aquino's administration, so it might also be a "not sure".
Sources and Materials

Revised implementing rules and regulations of R.A No. 6957, “an act authorizing the financing, construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure projects by the private sector and for other purposes”, as amended by R. A. No. 7718.
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The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA)
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[3] online (27/09/2014): "Second generation of activists continue fight against Laiban dam" (accessed 02/06/2015)
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[6] SSMNA's Position Paper on the Construction of Mega-Dams in Sierra Madre (accessed 29/05/2015)
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Laiban Dam on Wikipedia
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[2] Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) - new Centennial Water Supply Source Project
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[4] online (31/10/2014): "Stop 2 Sierra Madre dam projects, Agta folk appeal" (accessed 02/06/2015)
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[5] - Laiban Dam a costly, needless project: Indigenous people, water advocates hold protest at MWSS (accessed 02/06/2015)
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No to Laiban dam Facebook page
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Other Documents

[1] Philippince Center for Investigative Journalism - Laiban Dam Project, Chronology of Events (accessed 02/06/2015) Source:
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Protest calls Source:
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Street marches Source:
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Protests Source:
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Protests Source:
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Protests Source:
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Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim "dot" scheidel "at" gmail "dot" com
Last update05/06/2015