THE reservoir of the proposed hydropower mega dam in the borders of Bukidnon and Cotabato provinces would create the biggest man-made lake in Mindanao, a green group said.

This, as the group warns of dire environmental consequences similar to Lake Lanao's once the ambitious project pushes through.

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"The project is an ecological nightmare with alarming consequences to man and the environment. It is a classic instance of tinkering with nature that is fraught with grave and irreparable results," said Carl Caesar Rebuta of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center/Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK) in emailed statement to the Sun.Star.

When completed, the mega dam for the 300-megawatt Pulangi V Hydro Electric Power Plant is said to be the biggest in Mindanao.

Rebuta's group and the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the area, however, oppose the project, because it would submerge tribal lands-including ancient burial sites and other places considered sacred by the natives.

Spanning at least 22 villages from Bukidnon and Cotabato provinces, the dam would create a 400-square kilometer man-made lake-bigger than Lake Lanao's 354.60-square kilometer size, he said.

Rebuta said the environmental problems suffered by Lake Lanao itself hosts to several hydropower projects in the 70s-are likely to repeat in the proposed Pulangi V hydroelectric project.

"In 1978, the fate of Lake Lanao has changed for the worse. A regulatory dam constructed near the mouth of the river began operation. The people residing along the shorelines of the lake immediately felt the effect, in the form of flooding and drying of the shorelines," he said.

He added: "It used to be that when there is more rain, the more water outflows to the river; less rain, less outflow. The result is an unstable lake and a stable river, something that is against the laws of nature. In 1979, construction of Agus-1, the sixth of the seven (construction of Agus-3 started in early 1990's) power plants planned for the Agus grid began. Agus-1 has changed the situation in a potentially disastrous direction along environmental and social dislocations."

He went as far as describing the project as a form of "genocide".

"The whole tribe and all the ancestral domains of the Pulangiyon tribes will be submerged. Then, this is a genocide project," he said.

Wilmar Ampuan of Pulangiyon tribe agreed.

As head of the umbrella organization of all IP communities in the area, Ampuan consider the project as "another form of development aggression."

"Our sacred place, the burial ground of Apu Mamalu, the ancestor of the Moro and Lumad in Mindanao, will be enundated. The desecration of the cultural heritage landmark of Mindanao tribes is a big insult and disrespect to the tribes," the IP leader said.

Lemuel Leaño, human resource officer of Fibeco, said the consortium has been conducting series of consultations with the tribal communities in the affected areas.

He also denied that the project would totally submerge the natives' ancestral domain, though he admitted there would be barangays that would completely be wiped out from the map.

"There are parts that would surely be affected but this all depends on how the parties agree. All these things will be settled and we respect whatever decision the natives will reach on this proposals," Leaño said in a statement issued early last month. (DVA)