Philippines: Congress urged to investigate ‘Build, Build, Build’ dam projects
Groups opposed to large dams led by Katribu Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas and representatives of affected communities and support groups join Bayan Muna Party List Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate in filing resolutions seeking the investigation of the sustainability of existing large dams and construction of additional large dams in the country; and, investigation of alleged anomalies in the Tarlac Balog-Balog Multipurpose Dam Project Phase II (TBBMP-II).
“The historic injustices and legacy corruption we faced during the Martial Law-era Chico Dam struggle is still being repeated in today’s new large dam projects pushed by the Duterte government under its Build, Build, Build infrastructure program. We call on Congress to put all currently proposed large dam projects on hold and investigate and resolve serious problems surrounding existing large dams”, said Kakay Tolentino, an Alta-Dumagat leader, Katribu council member, and national coordinator of BAI Indigenous Women’s Network.
The groups said existing major dams failed to realize the promise of cheaper electricity and water, irrigation and flood mitigation. Instead, major dams aggravate flooding as excess waters are released during typhoons and heavy rains affecting properties, livelihood, establishments and properties.
From 2004 to 2015, about Php34.3 billion damages to properties, agriculture and fisheries were wrought by massive flooding aggravated by the release of waters from Ambuklao Dam, Binga Dam, Angat Dam, Bustos Dam, Ipo Dam, Magat Dam, San Roque Dam, and Pulangui Dam. Siltation, a major problem with large dams also impaired the capacity of these dams in delivering the energy needed to produce the promised cheap electricity. The San Roque Dam, the biggest dam in the country, for example only produced 85 megawatts (MW) or 27% of its capacity of 345 MW because of siltation. Other major dams in the country also suffer from siltation.
Thousands of indigenous peoples communities, farming and fishing communities displaced by large dams remain uncompensated and have not benefited from the domestic water distibution, irrigation and electricity produced by dams such as Ambuklao Dam, Binga Dam, Angat Dam, Bustos Dam, Ipo Dam, Magat Dam, San Roque Dam, and Pulangui Dam, including the Agus Dams.
Build, Build, Build brings new threats
More large dams are being built and targeted to be built under President Duterte’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program which is largely dependent on foreign loans especially from China’s official development assistance (ODA) funds. Build, Build, Build dams include among others the TBBMP-II in Tarlac province, the Kaliwa Low Dam component of the New Centennial Water Source (NCWS) Project in Rizal and Quezon provinces, the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project in Panay province, the Upper Tabuk Hydro Project (UTHP) in Kalinga province.
These new dam projects are wrought with issues ranging from questionable design, physical and economic displacement of communities, destruction of environment, food insecurity and disregard of the right to free prior and informed consent (FPIC) of communities.
A fact-finding mission held last March by the groups estimate that some 29 sitios covering at least 1,650 families mainly of indigenous Aeta will be wiped out by the TBBMP-II, while some 14 sitios or around 700 families will be confronted with heightened heightened flood risks.
The UTHP threatens to inundate 14,000 hectares of irrigated rice lands, including 24 barangays in Tabuk, Kalinga. Should the dam proceed construction, Tabuk will lose 1.1 million cavans of rice based on an average 80 cavans of palay production per hectare. Fourteen thousand farmers and their families (or about 70,000 people) would be economically displaced.
A study by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) indicates that the Kaliwa Low Dam will only directly affect about 445 households in Bgy. Magsaysay in Infanta and Bgy. Pagsangahan in General Nakar, Quezon but local Dumagat communities claim that communities in nine downstream barangays – Mahabang Lalim, Pesa, Minahan Norte, Minahan Sur, Maigang, Anoling, Pamplona, Batangan, Poblacion, and Banglos – in General Nakar, Quezon that will be affected have not been accounted by the MWSS. These barangays will be deprived of water for irrigating the rice farms of the Dumagat, and will affect marine life in the river, which will impact on their food security.
The rights of indigenous peoples to FPIC are likewise violated in the conduct of the FPIC in communities such as in the JRMP, the UTHP, the NCWS-Kaliwa Low Dam. Affected IP communities claim there were no consensus from indigenous groups and communities in the planning and construction of these projects. Companies, government agencies, local government units and state security forces allegedly employed deception (bribery) and terror to silence opposing views against these projects.
Design issues which have been found by a study commissioned by the Department of Budget and Management and the National Economic and Development Authority to be prevalent in previous dam projects hound the TBBMP-II. According to the study commissioned to the Philippine Institute of Development Studies, the TBBMP-II target of irrigating 34,000 hectares of rice lands overlaps with existing service areas of the CE-Casecnan Dam I and II, the existing Upper Pampanga River Irrigation System, and the service areas of the 70 deep well pumps installed under the Tarlac Groundwater Irrigation System.
Groups that joined in the filing of the resolutions include Dumagat-Sierra Madre, Dumagat-Rizal, , Protect Sierra Madre, Task Force Indigenous Peoples Rights, Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment, AGHAM, UCCP-Integrated Development Program for the Indigenous People, Katribu Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, and the Water for the People Network.