By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Members of the Uma Tribe in Sitio Ag-agama, Western Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga blocked the Chevron team from conducting a survey in their community for a proposed geothermal project that would affect communities in the tri-boundary of Pasil, Tinglayan and Lubuagan.
The Agagama folk asserted that surveys should not be conducted in their territory because they have already registered their opposition to the geothermal project with the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP)-Kalinga.
The people of Uma are opposed to the geothermal project because it would displace them from their ancestral domain and adversely affect their forests, payao (rice field) and uma (sweden farm).
Lorna Bommosao, of Ag-agama said that on May 18, residents of Agagama held a meeting at around 8:00 AM when they learned that Chevron will be conducting a survey that said day. Some village folk also discovered some surveyor’s paraphernalia in their community.
“During the meeting we decided to stop the survey team of Chevron because it seems the company did not respect the petition our elders filed with the NCIP against the entry of the project,” Bommosao shared.
She further said that at around 10:00AM after a community meeting the men, women and children gathered and set up a barricade at the provincial road intersection leading to their community.
“A few minutes later three Chevron vehicles stopped a few meters away from the our barricade and some of the company guides led by former Kalinga board member Martin Pulittod came and tried to negotiate with our elders to let them push through with the survey. Our elders stood their ground that no survey would be conducted.”
Pulittod then negotiated for the company to get their survey paraphernalia.
The community folk accompanied the engineer Chevron hired to recover the survey paraphernalia where it was planted.
The community folk suspect that the said gadget was installed in the evening of May 17 when nobody could see.
They deduced from testimonies of residents who last passed by the area in the late afternoon where the gadget was planted and saw no gadget.
It can be recalled that members of the Uma Tribe in three affected barangays of Lubuagan; Upper Uma, Lower Uma and Western Uma filed a petition against Chevron’s proposed geothermal project with the NCIP in 2010.
Moses Bangit of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA)-Kalinga explained that Chevron’s application for the geothermal project covers 26,000 hectares affecting eight barangays of Tinglayan, eight barangays of Pasil and the three barangays of Lubuagan.
According to Bangit Chevron is already conducting surveys even without consultations with affected communities for a free prior and informed consent (FPIC).
“Aside from the displacement of the Kalinga tribes from their communities and the environmental destruction a geothermal plant can cause, the on going survey activities of Chevron is causing disunity among the affected tribes and communities of Kalinga which may lead to tribal conflicts and possible tribal war,” Bangit reiterated.
Bangit pointed out that Chevron is capitalizing on the extreme poverty in the affected communities to gather support. He said that Chevron donated P500,000 worth of projects each to the three barangays of Lubuagan coursed through the barangay captains to get favorable endorsements for the conduct of the surveys.
He stressed that the geothermal project might result to boundary disputes leading to tribal wars among affected communities.
“The tribes might quarrel over territorial boundaries because of the monetary compensation from the company,” he explained.
Moreover Bangit pointed out that there is no need for a geothermal plant because at present there are already seven minihydro dams in Kalinga that provide more than enough energy for the province. “Who will benefit from the geothermal plants?” he stressed.
In a primer published by the Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera (Apit Tako) there are eighteen existing geothermal plants in the country today. Fourteen are operated by the National Power Corportion, two are operated by PNOC-EDC and the two other are operated by Marubeni Corporation.
Chevron is the steam supplier to eight of the said plants while PNOC-EDC supplies the remaining ten.
The same primer points out that geothernmal plants can cause earthquakes citing as example the experience in Basel, Switzerland where the operations of a geothermal plant was stopped due to the tremors it caused.
It can also cause subsidence due to the sucking of steam and water from the geothermal reservoirs just like what happened in Wairakei, New Zealand.
The Apit Tako primer also explained that geothermal plants cause air and water pollution as well. Operations of these plants emit carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. The water geothermal plants suck deep from the earth on the other hand contain poisonous chemicals that include arsenic, mercury, boron and antimony.
All these chemicals can adversely affect the water sources, spring, rivers and irrigation as high levels of concentration of these chemicals is detrimental to the living organisms in the rivers and even bigger animals including humans who drink from contaminated rivers and water sources.
Chevron is a leading energy company in the world that is invovled in exploration, production and selling of petroleum products, power generation and biofuel research. It supplies steam to eight of the 11 geothermal plants in Luzon. # nordis.net