Tabuk City dads hold hearing on hydro power project

By FROILAN WANAGON
www.nordis.net

TABUK CITY — The City Legislative body conducted a probe on the proposed Upper Tabuk Hydro Power Project (UTHP) after their regular session last July 31, 2017 (Monday) at Councilor Alunday’s Farm, Talama hills, Bulanao, Tabuk in audience with the proponent groups and oppositionists.

OPPOSING THE DAM. Mother Leticia Bula-at registers her opposition to the Upper Tabuk Hydro Power Project speak during the Tabuk City Council hearing last July 31. Photo by Froilan Wanagon

The combined committees on Environment and Natural Resources, Urban Zoning and Comprehensive Land Use and Agriculture regrouped after the Sangguniang Panglungsod (SP) regular session to hear the UTHP proponents and the group of oppositionists led by the Timpuyog dagiti Mannalon ti Kalinga, a farmers’ organization provincial federation regarding the proposed revival of the Upper Tabuk Hydro Power Project.

Hon. Atty. Zoraida Mia Wacnang, vice chair of the committee on Environment who presided the hearing, presented the issue. The presiding legislator said the issue began when a letter from the Minanga Indigenous Cultural Community (ICC) submitted to their office requesting the city council to endorse in their favor for the UTHP which subsequently the TMK submitted a position paper and petition opposing the said project.

As requested by the committees, Eng. Daniel Peckley Jr. presented the brief description of the project. Peckley said that the hydro dam project has a 35 meters weir head height and can produce at about 15-20 megawatt (MW) base from the water discharge of the Tanudan River. According to the presentation, the dam site shall be put just above the confluence of Tanudan and chico river and 3 km from the reservoir tail end up to the rice fields of Taloctoc tribe in Tanudan.

Engr. Peckley also stated the objectives of the proposed hydro dam where in the main objective is to produce electric power to reduce electric cost to P1/kilo watt hour (kwh); and secondly, through implementation and eventual operation, the UTHP shall provide resources for the improvement and provision of irrigation for about 65 hectares in Brgy. Dupag, Bagumbayan and Naneng. The neighboring tribe such as Malbong, Naneng and Dallac may also have share as well as the Barangay and LGU’s of about 1.2 million royalty fees every year.

He also said that it will greatly benefit the LGU-Tabuk in terms of income, the real estate alone can be about 5-6 million per annum. He also said that the Tabuk Hydro Electric Corporation (THEC) is already being set-up as the company to operate the hydro power plant. In terms of project financing, Engr. Peckley enumerated two ways to generate finance; one is from the so-called equity or local share and the other one is through loan from banks like the Land Bank that can lend about 70-80% of the total project cost.

On the effects of the proposed dam, the resource engineer also said that flooding of downstream is a natural occurrence brought by heavy rainfall and being worsened by climate change which we must be thankful to dam structures like San Roque, Binga and Ambuclao that alter the flow of water from upper portion that cause flood in low lying communities.

In the part of the petitioner, Artemio Fontanilla, chairman of the TMK claimed that the proposed hydro project will bring problem to the farmers. “We cannot deny the facts and our experience in recent typhoons that farmers suffer widespread flooding that resulted to crisis, and are still recovering and being rehabilitated of damages on farms by past natural disasters” the peasant leader said. He also said that he doubts the proponent’s claim that it will not cause flood. He feared that the wide agricultural farm downstream will turn into a gravel pit and they must ready themselves for the agony. “We cannot deny that palay production along chico river from San Juan, Tabuk to barangay Sucbot of Pinukpuk contribute a significant volume of palay for the province, what would happen if that will erase, do we want to import rice from other nations?” Fontanilla questioned.

He said that energy project is good especially that we can have a discount but we should consider which is more important, we can still live without the dam and even before that the people used saleng (pinewood). What we should consider that what is important is the source of food. The TMK chairman also raised the possible effect of the dam in terms of irrigation supply.

The second speaker Letticia Bula-at, a woman elder from Barangay Dupag and member of the Minanga ICC, criticized the process where in they use their tribe as proponent of the said hydro project. During the founding assembly of the Minanga ICC last February this year where herself was nominated as the ICC treasurer, she claimed that they never discussed about the dam so she was surprised that why the Minanga ICC became the proponent without her knowledge as one of the officers.

Bula-at reiterated that the objective of the formation is for the determination of their ancestral identity but never for the dam project. She also criticized their actions of attaching her picture in their endorsement quoting her support for the project. “What I said to Engineer Peckley during the meeting is that I may like the dam if you are going to make the road that passes through Dupag proper, but Engr. Peckley answered that it is not possible because there is already a route planned for the access road, so I said that I don’t want dam” the elder women lamented.

“I demand you remove my picture that you showed please, because that is not for the dam and I am not approving the dam” she ended. Bula-at is known for her valuable contribution as a woman leader during the chico dam struggle in 1980’s.

Danny Bangibang, member of the TMK secretariat and belonging to the Taloctoc tribe in the upper portion of Minanga, clarified that TMK as a federation of organizations in communities that whenever they receive complaints from their member POs and farmers, the TMK is committed and mandated to take action.

“At the time that we were informed of a letter from the Minanga to the LGU, we were also alarmed at the reaction and complaints of farmers in the upper and in the low lands that came to our office, thereby the TMK must stand and take action that’s why the TMK quickly made a position regarding the matter,” Mr. Bangibang said.

As a member of the Taloctoc tribe whose village will be affected by the proposed dam project, he said that their position is still firm and cannot be changed, to reject the dam project as they registered during the first attempt of the UTHP around 2008 to 2012. The proponent should not sow misconceptions on the dam classification because according to him, it is very clear that the UTHP is a large dam based on international standards.

Barangay Captain Dante Paut of San Juan, Tabuk also spoke in behalf of his constituents. He said that most of the people of San Juan especially in their community Isla that lies almost at the same level with Chico river are not in favor of the proposed dam project. His constituents fear the experience of other communities now suffering the effects of flooding. He also cited the possible effect to their irrigation systems that are directly tapped from the Chico which might dry up. The Brgy. Captain said they had already made a petition which is ready for submission.

After the speakers from both sides expressed their position and sentiments, each legislator also shared their opinion and point of view regarding the issue. The legislators also expressed their comments and proposition for both sides. Councilor Chester Alunday speaks more on the advantages. Councilor Bakilan asked a clarification to the proponent if they have consulted the city LGU regarding the project aside from their letter seeking for endorsement because the City government and also the provincial government has an ordinance that any project or development that enter in the city should inform or consult the local government.

Secondly, he also asked if they had consulted other affected communities like for example the people of Taloctoc since the river flows from Tanudan because without fulfilling such can make the project unsuccessful. Councilor Atty. Zoraida Wacnang said that as part of their role as officials they listen to both sides as she clarified a comment (from the proponent) on why should the SP entertain the opposition who are not from Minanga or Naneng or Dupag?

Councilor Dick Bal-o also raised that the proponent should present more concrete plans like how they are to generate funds for the project and he also urged the opposition to provide concrete evidence and example to prove their allegation on the negative impact of dams. Councilor Luchie Sarol said that as head of the committee on Zoning and Comprehensive Land Use, the dam project in upper Tabuk is not considered in the city Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). She also said that they have to study the possible effect of the dam project because Upper Tabuk is part of the city tourism destination area.

Basically the hearing ended on the note that the city legislators have to study the proposal more, and need more cosultations and discussions with both sides and technical experts to really be objective regarding the dam project. The legislators also said that the matter will be discussed in the committee en-banc for more scrutiny and further study before arriving at a decision to endorse or to disapprove it. # nordis.net

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