RP dams under heavy “pounding” from envi groups
by Megan Yang in Makati City, and Bb. Joyce Cabral in Naga City
Environmental activists, scientists, indigenous people, urban poor, and other sectoral groups staged a demonstration in front of the San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC) office in Makati City and condemned the SRPC, the National Power Corporation (Napocor) and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration for the massive flooding in Pangasinan and portions of nearby provinces of La Union and Tarlac.
“SRPC, Napocor and President Arroyo should answer to the hundreds of lives, infrastructure and livelihood that were destroyed due to the flooding and devastation caused by their utter disregard to the consequences of their business all in the name of profits,” said Dr. Giovanni Tapang, chairperson of Advocates for Science and Technology for the People AGHAM.
According to the protesters, it was the sudden release of a large volumes of water in San Roque Dam at the height of the storm Pepeng that was largely responsible for 90% of Pangasinan being under water, P12 million worth of infrastructure destroyed, P200 million worth of partial damage on crops and fish production and a number of people being drowned.
The National Power Corporation (Napocor) owns the San Roque dam and spillway, while the San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC) owns the power generating facilities while being controlled by Japanese companies Marubeni and Kansai.
“Although San Roque Dam was also designed for flood control, SRPC and NPC admitted that they keep the water levels of the dam as high as possible as this will generate more electricity. This practice is highly irresponsible and a deliberate disregard to the safety of the nearby communities,” said Dr. Tapang.
“SRPC and NPC continue to evade responsibility and even blame the unusual amount of rainfall or the victims for not heeding the flood warnings for the extent of the calamity in Pangasinan. It is unspeakable how the corporations showed no remorse and even boasted that they would go with the same decision of opening the dam gates that caused so much devastation, deaths and losses if they again had to.” remarked Dr. Tapang.
The officials claim that people were given 4 hour lead time to evacuate, however, victims claim of not receiving any warning while those who were aware claim that their areas were flooded in 30 minutes.
“The disaster brought by San Roque Dam is just a reflection of how the interests of corporations are prioritized over the safety of the people. Surely this kind of mindset is dangerous and will bring more disaster to the people especially where similar projects of foreign corporations are located,”said Dr. Tapang.
Thousand of indigenous people were displaced during its construction and despite widespread protests in local and international level, San Roque Multi-Purpose Dam was approved in 1998. The dam’s construction was completed in March 2003 and became operational in May under President Arroyo’s term.
“President Arroyo should be held accountable for allowing San Roque Dam to operate during her term and for not listening to the demands and the protests of community. This is another example of how her administration is favoring the interests of the foreign corporations at the expense of the safety and welfare of the Filipino people and our environment,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of progressive environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.
According to Bautista, “For justice to be served to the victims of the floods in Pangasinan, the government must regain control of the San Roque Dam and work for its decommissioning. Also, plans of constructing large dam projects, such as the Laiban dam, that have proven to destroy our environment and make communities more vulnerable to disasters must be abandoned.”
“If it is indeed true that Mrs. Arroyo is bent on preventing future disasters such as those we have witnessed, she should discontinue favoring the interests of private corporations and hold them accountable for their crimes to communities and reverse her current policy of privatizing our energy resources and infrastructure such as hydro dams,” Bautista ended.
In Naga City, the Legaspi City based fisherfolk group Lakas ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisda ng Bicol (Lambat-Bicol), the regional chapter of the leftwing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday urged Malacanang to recall the P 700-million Libmanan-Cabusao Dam (LCD) project in Camarines Sur.
“We cannot allow another San Roque Dam here in Bicol and wait for the next tragedy to strike courtesy of President Arroyo, her son Dato and their foreign investor. Damned that dam please,” Lambat-Bicol chair and Pamalakaya vice-president for Luzon Salvador France said in a press statement.
France asserted that the lessons learned from San Roque Dam should compel President Arroyo to sign an executive order terminating the dam project and she can do it within less than an hour.
“Malacanang has no choice but to scrap the Camarines Sur dam project for good to prevent another super calamity and humanitarian crisis in the making. We don’t care if Rep. Dato and her monster mom get hurt along the way because they will lose their fat kickbacks,” the Pamalakaya leader added.
The dam is part of the P3-billion worth of projects for the first district of Camarines Sur announced by Ms Arroyo in September last year, during the 34th birthday of her son Dato, representative of the first district of Camarines Sur.
The Libmanan-Cabusao irrigation and dam project was touted to be the answer to irrigation in 4,000 hectares of farms.
Lambat-Bicol and Pamalakaya said the project being implemented by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) under the Bicol River Basin Water Management Project (BRWMP) will usher a new era of environmental disaster and humanitarian crisis across the region if Malacanang and Rep. Arroyo proceed with the ambitious project.
The Pamalakaya official said the P 700 million dam project is a “monster project” orchestrated by the “monster mom” and his “monster son” referring to President Arroyo and son Dato.
“We have another major catastrophe in the making, if the mother and son tandem insist their evil and cruel intentions in Camarines Sur,” France said.
The Lambat-Bicol leader with the observations raised by local folk that large portion of Lupi town would be submerged underwater if the dam pushes through.
But Tomasito Monzon, chief of the BRBWMP, allayed fears that the P700-million Libmanan-Cabusao Dam (LCD) project would cause massive flooding in Lupi and neighboring areas.
“The LCD, which is Bicol’s biggest dam, is not capable of storing a large volume of water,” Monzon said.
“It would not cause massive flooding contrary to the apprehension of residents living near it,” he said.
He said the 11.3-meter tall and 150-m wide dam is a run-off river type of diversion structure unlike the big reservoir dams of Angat in Bulacan, Pantabangan in Nueva Ecija, and Magat in Isabela.
Monzon said a run-off river dam is only capable of raising water up to the maximum crest of the dam which, in the case of LCD, is 11.3 m only.
“When water reaches this maximum level, water will spill over back to the river,” he said.
“Reservoir dams are different because they are designed to store water during rainy days and when the impounded water reaches the maximum reservoir elevation, it is released gradually,” he explained.#