BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — Legal and environmental problems facing the provincial government here have prompted local officials and affected communities in throwing stiff opposition to the proposed dam project here.
“It is a question of social acceptability ranging from our past experiences with the affected villagers is the major reason why there is a major opposition to such major development projects,” said Governor Carlos Padilla.
He was referring to the proposed Diduyon Hydro Power Project(DHPP) in Kasibu town, one of the remaining and threatened watersheds of Nueva Vizcaya and Cagayan Valley Region.
The proposed DHPP is supposed to be constructed by Green Energy Management(GEM) & Holdings, Inc., which involves the construction of a 12- kilometer , 5.7 meter in diameter runway tunnel, power house with four turbines and a dam with 103 meter in height that could generate 320 megawatts of electric power.
The proponents, Padilla said recently conducted a project presentation at the provincial capitol to draw support and endorsemnt for the project.
The governor however said affected tribal folks such as the Bugkalot tribe are raising environmental, cultural, legal and economic issues and concerns.
“Our loyalty is for our people. If they do not want your project, expect the same decision from us,” he added.
Padilla also emphasized the absence of a detailed and comprehensive plan of the proposed DHPP which should contain and 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 for displaced communities.
He also said legal impediments hounding the provincial government in its claim for Real Property Taxes(RPT) and other regulatory fees have also been raised inorder to avoid legal controversies and disputes with neighboring provinces.
“In fact, it would be better if all their facilities will be constructed within our jurisdiction so that there will be no legal disputes later,” Padilla said.
He said that at present, the provincial government has been waging legal battle with operators of other power producing projects hosted by the province such as 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 governor said the same battle has been fought by the provincial government with operators of mining projects such as the Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc.(OGPI) which operates the gold-copper extraction project in barangay Didipio in Kasibu town.
These companies however paid portions of their past and previous RPT tax arrears.
Padilla also expressed concern over the volume of water to be siphoned and discharged during the DHPP operation.
“When the Casecnan Dam project was still being introduced to Novo Vizcayanos, we were assured that there will be no drying up of our rivers but this is now being experienced. The Taan and Casecnan rivers as main source of water is now drying up especially during the summer season,” he said.
Padilla said this is threatening the economic lives of the Bugkalot in the area since the expensive ‘Ludong’ fish specie is now extinct.
“We will see to it that the 10 percent water volume requirement in the river source will be properly defined and maintained once the DHPP is being built. Though we have loose laws then, we will not let this happen again,” Padilla said.
He said everything that was discussed during the DHPP project presentation are still premature, moot and academic.
“They should first validate these issues on the ground because even if they can convince us, we will definitely support the cause of the Bugkalot tribe in the barangays,” Padilla said.
The governor also said through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the project proponent was required to prepare a Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan(CWMP) which will include alternative livelihood opportunities for displaced Bugkakot villagers and other tribes who will be primarily affected by the DHPP. Ben Moses Ebreo/PNA-northboundasia.com