BAGUIO CITY — While SN Aboitiz Power-Benguet, Inc announced its two year rehabilitation work on the Ambuklao Hydroelectric Power Plant, residents of Bokod also ask the company support livelihood and forest conservation related projects of the area which serves as the watershed and water source for Binga and Ambuklao dams.
In a press conference Friday last week, Mike Hostillos, of the Aboitiz Corporation Communication Office, told the media that their company started the rehabilitation work December last year, to be completed at the end of 2010.
Hostillos said that as a part of their corporate program, they will support the ADSDPP (Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Plan) of the indigenous peoples in that area, including environmental conservation related projects.
He added that they generally support projects which would holistically maintain and conserve the forest areas. He explained, however, that since the National Power Corporation supervises the conservation of the watershed areas surrounding and upstream the dams, they will coordinate with them (NPC) including the local government units as their partners.
Ambuclao dam in Bokod, Benguet was built in 1953 while the Binga dam in Itogon, Benguet was built in 1956. Both dams have not been operative since 1999 due to siltation and destruction of structures that called for substantial rehabilitation. The 1990 earthquake allegedly contributed to the non-operation of the dam.
A member of the Ibaloi tribe of Bokod said that Mount Pulag and their area serve as the water source of various creeks and rivers that flow down the Agno River which ensure water for the Ambuklao and Binga dams.
This resident said Mount Pulag and the area needed assistance for environment and forest conservation projects,— establishment of fire lines, training for nursery and park management, and information and education on the the situation, conservation and preservation as watershed and National Park.
When Ambuklao and Binga dams were built, the late Pres. Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation 120 on November 25, 1966 which declared as watershed area 9,700 hectares in Atok and Bokod towns of Benguet.
He also issued on April 19, 1969 Proclamation No. 548 declaring 6,365 hectares in Atok and Bokod as Ambuklao-Binga Watershed Forest Reserve.
Former Pres. Aquino issued Proclamation No. 75 on February 20, 1987 which declared 11,550 hectares in Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet and Ifugao as the Mount Pulag National Park.
The maintenance of the upper areas of the dams would make a difference on the life span of the dam, hence they should support projects for the environmental conservations, added this resident.
Hostillos clarified that these kinds of projects are among those they targeted which would be realized in their future partnership with NPC and the Local Government Units.
Hostillos added that the communities will benefit from the operation of the dam.
Among their projects were the subsidy for the electric bills of the host communities and employment.
“It will also allow them again to collect the national wealth tax which ceased when the plant stopped to operate,” added Hostillos.
In relation to compensation for affected families, he said that the NPC is the agency more concerned as they just entered as a private party.
SN Aboitiz manages Ambuklao, Binga and Magat dams. It is a consortium between SN Power of Norway and Aboitiz Power Corporation. SN Aboitiz is claimed to be a majority Filipino owned power-generation company. # Arthur L. Allad-iw