Critics of Alimit hydro project fear for safety

FEAR hampers a community in protests over a hydro project.

Nestor Peralta said fears for safety may be behind the dwindling support over opposition against the SN Aboitiz Alimit Hydro project in Ifugao.

Peralta said indirect threats and harassment and red tagging has been received by those opposing the project with a fear of suffering the same fate as journalist and human rights advocate, Brandon Lee.

“Isang tumutulong sa indigenous people’s rights ay nabaril at yan ang kinatatakutan na masundan ulit,” referring to Lee who was shot August and is now recovering abroad.

(Someone who helped fight the indigenous people’s rights was gunned down and that’s what we fear happening again.)

SN Aboitiz Power (SNAP) aims to set up a 140-megawatt (MW) Alimit Hydro Electric Power Project (HEPP) in Ifugao.

Peralta said Lee was at the forefront of helping the people be informed of their rights especially for ancestral land.

From Lagawe town, Peralta filed the petition to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples – Cordillera, Monday morning, reiterating opposition to the SN Aboitiz Alimit Hydro project.

“We, the undersigned, representatives of the people of Lagawe, Ifugao having a petition to stop the proposed construction of the Alimit Hydro Power Complex, write this letter of clarification to the regional and national office of the National Commission of Indigenous People (NCIP) to manifest our experiences in the meetings held in our barangay for the past months,” the petition read.

The project aims to draw water from the Alimit and Ibulao rivers tributary to the Magat river between Lagawe, Aguinaldo and Mayoyao towns, building an impounding reservoir to be supplemented by water to be diverted from the Ibulao river going to the Alimit river giving SNAP a 140 MW of capacity in the area.

Originally, the proposed complex was seen to have a power generating capacity of 390 MW with its third component, a 2s0 MW pumped storage put on hold due to market constraints.

The river is 33 kilometers long from its upper trenches in Aguinaldo and Mayaoyao to its confluence with the Magat Dam reservoir in Dulao, Lagawe in Ifugao.

“We have manifested that we do not want the tunneling component of the project. We have manifested that we do not want the diversion of the Ibulao River. We have manifested that our petition was not addressed by SN Aboitiz or they refused to do so as they are only eager to in presenting their project and setting aside our questions,” the petition reiterated.

According to the petition, “some were even asked to sign a paper in order for SN Aboitiz to negotiate to them for mitigations in case the project will push through, and if they will not sign, they said that SN Aboitiz will not be liable in cases there will be damages to their properties during the construction of the project. We have experienced different statements in the meetings, officiates saying that the FPIC is back to zero while others are saying that the project is already approved.”

Peralta said a previous petition has been logged at the NCIP this year but has been yet to be addressed.

“There is no resolution regarding our petition therefore, there is no resolution of consent. The community particularly the petitioners were not informed of the results of the resolution, if there was any. If there were, the petitioners should have been informed of the same. A copy of the resolution or minutes of the meetings for the purpose of verification would suffice. We also pose a question, why was SN Aboitiz involved in the resolution of the petition? What we know is the order came from the BCIP-CAR to resolve the petition between and among the indigenous people themselves through customary practices. SN Aboitiz eroded the true intent of the resolution the moment they involved themselves in the process,” it added.

The first phase of the project entails the construction of the 120-megawatt Alimit Plant and the 20-MW Olilicon Plant. The capital outlay for this phase is expected to be between US$450 to US$550 million. The second phase of the complex includes the 250-MW Alimit pumped storage facility.

The Alimit Olilicon HEPP is located at the lower stretch of the Alimit River and Ibulao River which are tributaries of the Magat River immediately upstream of the Magat reservoir while the Alimit Pumped Storage upper reservoir is proposed to be located in a natural basin in the mountain range between the Alimit and Ibulao rivers.

Peralta said over 100 new petitioners are waiting for updates from the NCIP.

SN Aboitiz has yet to issue a statement as of Monday.


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