By GWEN GAONGEN
SAGADA — “Who asked for the wind farm? We did not!” says an elder from Fidelisan referring to Philcarbons’ Sagada-Besao Wind Energy project. This and many more questions were raised by 40 representatives of some 11 peoples organizations and some barangay officials in a peoples organizations (PO) conference last November 21 held at St. Joe Cafe, Sagada.
A general position of “opposition to the proposed wind farm” was agreed upon by the participants. Petitions and resolutions shall be drafted and submitted to appropriate government agencies, LGU and Philcarbon by villages and organizations who have come to a decision against the wind farm.
Furthermore, the participants consented to attend all levels of the FPIC (free, prior informed consent) process as another venue to raise their concerns and opposition to the wind farm. This shall however not prevent them from conducting information sharing as to points raised and learned during the IP rights forum.
They agreed that ultimately it is the exercise of the indigenous peoples rights to self determined development and self determination that should be recognized. An integral part of the right to self-determination is the right to correct information as basis for decision making.
The conference provided a lecture on indigenous peoples rights along the context of burning issues affecting the indigenous communities of Mt. Province and specific concerns of Besao and Sagada.
Jane Macagne, an agriculturist of the Montanyosa Resource and Development Center (MRDC) presented in brief the historical creation of minorities in the Philippines and the Cordillera. In her presentation, she showed the consistent disregard and institutional oppression of the Cordillera peoples in the name of “National Development”.
Today, challenges to IPs of Sagada and Besao are seen in the numerous large scale mining applications and renewable energy projects of mini-hydro dams, a windfarm application by Philcarbon and geothermal energy by Chevron. These covers almost all ancestral territories of the two municipalities (excluding those covered by the Torrens Title).
A brief discussion on the Energy Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA Law) of 2001 and the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 as presented by Gwen Gaongen introduced the discussion on the pending wind power project.
Philcarbon application is a project that intends to install wind mills along the ridge of Langsayan that is within the territories of Besao and Sagada. The planned 10 windmills are described in a Philcarbon presentation as 80 to 100 meters in height, with a base area of 20 x 20 meters or 400 square meters and distances between 75 to 240 meters apart, with blades of 80 meters length. These are expected to generate a targeted output of 15 mega watts of electricity.
Many participants raised local concerns in relation to the destruction of their ancestral territories. Participants from Agawa and Lacmaan say they fear excavations for the windmill foundations and connecting needs will cover their water sources. “Where will they dump all the soil and trees that will be dug out from Langsayan” the elders asked.
We do not trust the company” expressed some elders. Philcarbon asked for time to do a feasibility study for one year in a consultation last May 23 held in Bangaan National High School. No results of the feasibility study has been presented to the people and yet the NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples) is currently starting the process for the FPIC. The company is also continuously convincing people to agree to the project.
Some who were able to join the exposure trip to the Bangui Windfarm shared what they saw and learned from the visit. They said that fisherfolk observed a marked shying away of fish from municipal fishing grounds to deeper waters. Some said that 60% of their catch has decreased.
This is because small fisherfolk have small motorized bancas that cannot go into deeper and stronger waters. However, a barangay kagawad from Bangui also said that their IRA has increased and thus their honoraria as officials as well. This is because Bangui has been reclassified from a 5th class to a 4th class municipality.
The company also proposed to set-up additional windmills on a small mountain ridge close to the Bangui shoreline wind turbines. Opposition was immediately registered by the people as they fear these additional windmills shall destroy water sources of the community.
Agriculture it seems is not spared as the participants also say that the shadows created by the windmills may affect the crops specially the rice that they plant. An elder from Lacmaan said that their ancestors spirits (anito) could be angered as the traditional Stone Calendar (sundial) of Agawa relies on the suns play on another stone located at Langsayan ridge. The destruction of the Langsayan ridge may affect this.
Roads may be ruined as the heavy weight of the towers and turbines cannot be accommodated said another. Some also said that noise from the windmills can cause adverse effects on the health of people. This pushed the discussion on low frequency noise and a video presentation of the experience of Merideth, New York and Australia. In the experience of the two communities, the people were initially so excited and accepted the wind mill projects. But as time went by and many problems of health were experienced by the people, those who were at first pro-wind farm, became the organizers of anti-wind farm. This ended in a unified community call to get the windmills out of the community.
Another concern is the issue of militarization. As experienced by the indigenous peoples in the Philippines, most government projects are coupled with the use of force. The Chico dam struggle and numerous martyrs are stories they cannot forget. They say that if today, cases of Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) are numerous, military presence will escalate this. According to provincial jail guards, 45% of convicted felons detained at the provincial jail are perpetrators of VAWC, many of which are cases of rape.
The activity is part of the implementation of a Dinteg (Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Legal Center) project. Enhancing Capacities of Indigenous Peoples on Oversight Mechanisms within the Framework of IPR Based Development. # nordis.net