DAVAO CITY, Philippines - Questioning the lack of a comprehensive impact study on the proposed hydroelectric power plant in Davao's Panigan-Tamugan River Watershed, an environment group urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to recall the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued to Hedcor- Aboitiz.
Lia Jasmin Esquillo, executive director of the Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) said that the hydropower project to be located in such a critical water resource area should have been required a full-blown Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) System.
She further said that in the absence of an EIA System, a project is fraught with danger that cannot be simply addressed with mitigating measures. Hedcor-Aboitiz must first prove that their project will not put public welfare and the environment in jeopardy.
“How come DENR was not on the side of precaution when it decided to issue the ECC? Why are they willing to put our water at risk?” Esquillo asked.
According to EMB in its March 17 decision, their basis of giving an ECC is the Initial Environmental Evaluation (IEE) that Hedcor-Aboitiz submitted, which Esquillo described as a very shallow and a cursory look at the hydroelectric power project.
“We are now forced to believe that the abrupt decision of EMB is politically motivated as it admitted that the issuance of the ECC was preceded by the visit of no other than President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo to the Hedcor-Sibulan hydroelectric power project,” Esquillo said.
“Deals seem to be made prior to compulsory public consultation and a study on the social, cultural and environmental impact of hydroelectric power in a drinking water resource. This in fact, puts EMB's credibility in question, as the hydroelectric power generation will operate in an environmentally critical area (ECA) that will conflict with the people's right to potable water and a healthy environment,” she added.
Tamugan River, based on DENR River Classification, is Classification A, a recommended water source because of its superior quality and is a recharge zone with very high possibility of groundwater depletion.
Juland Suazo of the Foundation for Philippine Environment disagrees that the Hedcor-Aboitiz hydroelectric power projects both in Tamugan and Sibulan Watersheds are for clean energy projects since the driving force of having such power demand are mining and agribusiness plantations which destroy the natural ecosystems and contribute further to climate change.
IDIS joined other consumer and environment groups in a protest rally in front of the Sangguniang Panglungsod calling on all councilors and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte “to prioritize the public's right to water over corporate control of natural resources in the guise of clean energy power projects”. (Angging Aban)