I heard that some people approve of the project. Maybe, they think they will benefit from it. But for people like me who only know how to farm, I do not see many benefits. The land I till have been our source of livelihood, inherited in the family for three generations now. If I sell it because of the project, what future will my children have?
Lakay Celestino Teh-op shared this sentiment as the waning afternoon light blanketed Sitio Nammug in Bimpal, Lamut, Ifugao. The community is one among many that will be directly affected by the proposed Alimit Hydropower Complex project.
Almost in his 60s, his wrinkled forehead would crease into small frowns as he listened intently to the community meeting on the hosting of the provincial Cordillera Day celebration. But behind his elderly facade, shone eyes that spoke with clarity of the concrete and lasting impacts the project would bring to their community.
Some people say we can sell our land to the company and buy land or move to the neighboring town Vizcaya. But in Vizcaya, people bring their carabaos home for fear of these being stolen at night if left in the fields. But here in our community, we can leave our tools or animals in the fields or pasture, knowing for sure that these would still be there when we return the following day or whenever we need them.
The way he sees it, the future remains filled with more worries and uncertainties than assurances should the hydro project push through.
The Alimit Hydropower Complex Project
In July 2014, the Department of Energy signed a 25-year Renewable Energy Service Contract (RESC) with the SN Aboitiz Power (SNAP) Group for the proposed Alimit Hydropower Complex project in Ifugao. The project will be affecting the municipalities of Aguinaldo, Lamut, Lagawe, and Mayoyao. The SNAP Group is a joint venture between SN Power of Norway and Aboitiz Power in the country, of which SNAP-Ifugao, Inc. (SNAP-I) is a member.
According to the SNAP-I, the hydropower complex consists of three major components with a potential capacity of 390 megawatts (MW). The Alimit HEPP is a storage type hydro that includes an 80-meter concrete gravity dam, a power plant that can produce 120 MW, and a storage reservoir along the Alimit River.
On the other hand, the Olilicon HEPP is a run-of-river type that includes a 14-meter weir at Sitio Nammug, a 7.7-kilometer underground diversion tunnel to the Alimit Reservoir, and a 20MW power plant.
Moreover, the Alimit Pump-Storage Project (PSP) in Sitio Huyo connected to the Alimit Reservoir, with a 43-meter dam and a 250 MW underground power plant.
In addition, SNAP-I is also proposing the 42-km Alimit-Bayombong 230kV Transmission Line that will connect the Alimit HEPP to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) Bayombong substation.
Since the project will be affecting indigenous peoples (IP) in Ifugao, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Ifugao is presently conducting the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process for the project. The FPIC is a mechanism under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) that requires project proponents to consult with and obtain the permission of affected IP communities before implementing plans and projects that would affect them.
SNAP-I expects the FPIC process to be completed within the year and have targeted the hydro project to be operational by 2020.
Uniting for collective action
With the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) and Ifugao Elders Alliance as sponsors, the Pallitugong, Mah-et, Nammug, Ayod (PAMANA) Farmers Organization in Sitio Nammug has decided to host the provincial Cordillera Day celebration on April 22, 2016 to serve as a venue for information dissemination on their rights as IPs and exchange with other affected communities in Lagawe and Lamut.
Is the Cordillera Day celebration connected to SN Aboitiz? Lakay Teh-op asked, wanting to ensure that the activity they agreed to host would really support the peoples’ decision concerning the proposed Alimit project in their community. His concern came about from his observation.
The NCIP came and gave us their assurance that they will help us and uphold whatever decision we will make. But they are also helping the company, giving advice to them when they request it. I just want to make sure that this activity is not a maneuver in favor of the company.
He was relieved to learn that the Cordillera Day celebration observed in April was borne from the Cordillera peoples struggle against the Chico River dams project during the Marcos administration. Macliing Dulag, a Kalinga pangat and staunch opposition leader against the project, was killed in cold blood by state security agents on April 24, 1980. Meant to scare and terrorize the people into accepting the project, his death fanned the flames of resistance against the project until the World Bank cancelled its funding and the project was finally shelved.
The annual memorial for Macliing Dulag was transformed into the Cordillera Day celebration in 1984 with the birth of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance for the Defense of Ancestral Land and for Self-Determination, a federation of peoples organizations in the region. Since then, Cordillera Day has been held to remember the heroism of Macliing and the martyrs that continued the fight, as well as to review and share the lessons, victories and continuing struggles of the Cordillera people. //Bernice Lee