SAN PEDRO CITY—The arrest of environmental activist Vertudes “Daisy” Macapanpan has directed public attention to a larger issue involving a P50-billion dam project in the small, quiet town of Pakil in Laguna.
Macapanpan, 69, has been opposing the Ahunan pumped storage hydropower facility on fears that its construction on a mountain in the Sierra Madre range will trigger flash floods in the low-lying towns of Laguna. She was arrested in her home in Barangay Burgos, Pakil, on June 11.
The project is seen to generate 1,400 megawatts of electricity, and is a joint venture of billionaire Enrique Razon’s Prime Metro Power Holdings Corp. and JBD Water Power Inc.
It will cover 299 hectares of land in Pakil and is targeted for completion in 2027.
Macapanpan is being held in General Nakar town, Quezon province, while her family raises P200,000 for her bail.
The Philippine Army’s 202nd Infantry Brigade said Macapanpan’s arrest was based on a 2008 warrant for rebellion issued by a court in Infanta, Quezon, and that her environmental advocacy had nothing to do with it.
It said she was a high-ranking communist who “radicalized” young and indigenous people in the province into joining the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing, the New People’s Army.
Macapanpan’s son Mac, 33, said he believed that she was arrested for her vocal opposition to the planned hydropower facility.
This was how he narrated the turn of events to CoverStory:
On June 11 Macapanpan came home from a meeting in a chapel with other Pakil residents whose lives would be affected by the planned dam.
She rested a bit and then went out to check the ongoing repair work on the family residence.
Mac heard a commotion and immediately went out of the house, but a soldier stopped him from coming to his mother’s aid.
A neighbor said he had heard Macapanpan telling the arresting officers, “I’m not going with you because you don’t have any warrant.” But she was forced into a waiting police car.
The “violent” arrest was caught on a cellphone camera.
“There were too many of them (police and soldiers). They even blocked the roads that led to our home, as if they were about to arrest a member of a criminal syndicate,” Mac said.
“She’s not a criminal,” he said, adding that his mother, who now has four grandchildren to look after, was too old to engage in rebellion.
Macapanpan is a former instructor at the University of the Philippines Baguio, and is an aunt of the artist-sisters Sari, Aba and Kiri Dalena.
A primer issued by Macapanpan’s group, Protect Sierra Madre for the People, said the hydropower facility would draw water from Laguna Lake and pump it into a massive reservoir in the upland portion of Pakil.
The primer said the construction of the dam would require cutting down trees and clearing off a portion of the Sierra Madre that could result in flooding and landslides in the Pakil communities in the long run.