Power project doing serious harm to environment
“WE’LL CLEAN the ranks of the DENR. Those accepting bribes, your days are over. Stop it. No corruption is acceptable” (“Gina spooks mining stocks: Environment activist Lopez accepts DENR job,” Front Page, 6/22/16). These words from new Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, together with President Duterte’s strong assertion that destroyers of the environment will be dealt with accordingly, gave us, who are fighting for the protection of our environment, hope.
We urge the secretary to include among the “nonacceptable” in her department hydroelectric power projects whose construction methods are despicably laying waste to the environment—like the hydroelectric power plant in Sabangan, Mountain Province, which has been the object of our two-year struggle for justice.
Hectares of old-growth forest and thousands of trees have been “massacred” and wasted, while hundreds of thousands of tons of construction waste have been directly and wantonly dumped into the Chico River and its tributaries. We have brought this matter to the attention of the central and regional offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), as well as to the Office of the President and other concerned agencies and almost all the national media outfits.
Sad to say, only ABS-CBN Baguio immediately went to the site and documented the “disaster,” reporting on it for five days on TV. Sad to say, too, the Office of the President, DENR, EMB and other concerned agencies remained deaf, blind and mute about the problem.
Sometime in the past, similar serious concerns about the logging operations of Kairuz Logging Co. and Heald Lumber Co. were raised, and I wrote the National Irrigation Administration and the Department of Agriculture about the destruction they were causing. When Typhoon “Ineng” directly hit the Mountain Province in August 2015, it was a disaster: logs in the river system became floating “battering rams” that caused the destruction of the P57-million Betwagan Bridge and P500 million in public irrigation facilities in Tabuk, making the planting of 25,000 hectares of rice fields impossible for three cropping seasons.
The waste from the Sabangan hydroelectric power project, which is being dumped into our river system, will be felt for many long years.
My 100 million-peso question is: Why do private and public personalities involved in such projects and operations choose to be deaf, mute and blind to the destruction?
On Oct. 12, 2015, the indigenous peoples of Sabangan led by Prime Bishop Renato Abibico of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines filed in the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) a complaint regarding the matter. Sad to say, after nine months, the PAB has taken no credible action on the complaint. This far, all indications point to a whitewash of our complaint. But with Secretary Lopez sitting as chair of the PAB and President Duterte’s fighting words against the destroyers of the environment, we see hope.
It is evident that the DENR and EMB have been compromised. I even believe that corruption in these two arms of the government has reached epidemic proportions. I and my group are with the President and Secretary Lopez in their goal of reforming the DENR and EMB. We are ready to support and provide them with feedback, or to keep them updated on the project.
—JUNIPER DOMINGUEZ, Sabangan, Mountain Province, firstname.lastname@example.org
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