Diduyon dam proponents face stiff opposition in Nueva Vizcaya

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — Proponents of the planned Diduyon Hydro Power Plant(DHPP) construction are facing stiff opposition from provincial officials as well as tribal folks in the province due to its legal, cultural, social and environmental issues.

“Our loyalty is for our people. If they do not want your project, expect the same decision from us,” said Governor Carlos Padilla during the project presentation made by DHPP officials here.

Green Energy Management(GEM) & Holdings, Inc., DHPP proponent, said the project will be built in mountains of Kasibu town, one of the remaining watersheds in the province.

It involves the construction of a 12- kilometer , 5.7 meter in diameter runway tunnel, power house with 4 turbines and a dam with 103 meter in height that could generate 320 megawatts of electric power.

Padilla also expressed dismay over the absence of a detailed plan of the proponents which will cover the environmental rehabilitation plan for areas to be disturbed, relocation plan for the affected tribal villages, scientific study and protection plan for the affected natural resources and livelihood opportunities fo.r displaced communities.

Local officials also encouraged DHPP proponents to build their facilities solely in Nueva Vizcaya to prevent legal disputes.

“We do not want any legal controversies as we have experienced in the past,” said lawyer Voltaire Garcia, provincial legal officer.

The provincial government has been waging legal battle with the Casecnan Multi-Purpose Irrigation and Power Project(CMIPP) in Alfonso Castaneda town over the payment of its real property tax (RPT) to the province.

The same issue has been fought by the provincial government in its claim for RPT and other regulatory taxes from the Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc.(OGPI) which operates the gold-copper extraction project in barangay Didipio in Kasibu town.

Due to these legal remedies, Casecnan Water and Energy Company(CWEC) and OGPI failed to pay their yearly RPT to the province.

Provincial officials also expressed concern over the volume of water to be siphoned and discharged during the DHPP operation even though the proponents of the CMIPP assured that the Taan and Casecnan rivers as main source of water will not dry up.

At present, these water sources have dried up causing the fish species, especially ‘ludong’ the most expensive fish that serve as one of the major sources of livelihood for the Bugkalot tribe, to be extinct.

“We will see to it that the 10 percent water volume requirement in the river source will be properly defined and maintained. Though we have loose laws then, we will not let this happen again,” Padilla said.

Officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) also required DHPP to prepare a Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan(CWMP) which will include alternative livelihood opportunities for displaced villagers.

“Everything that we are discussing here are still premature, moot and academic. You should validate these issues on the ground because even if you can convince us, we will definitely support the cause of the Bugkalot tribe in the area,” Padilla said. Ben Moses Ebreo/PNA-northboundasia.com