By RUEL V. PELONE, Online Editor
PROPONENTS of the Pulangi 5 hydro electric project in Bukidnon are now turning the table to the oppositors of the project saying the group is undermining the economic development of Mindanao.
“The social impact of the project is minimal, but it’s impact on Mindanao’s economy is enormous,” said Romulo Baz, Pulangi 5 Project Management Office manager.
Baz said the project’s pre-development company Greenergy Development Corporation is now implementing a “responsive and sensitive social program.”
“In the one year that we have implemented the pre-development phase of the Pulangi 5 project, we have conducted more than 200 community consultations, with special attention on the concerns of the Manobo indigenous people,” Baz said.
Relocation and sustainable livelihood shall be provided to affected residents in the areas affected by the project. “We will not only provide them with homelots and farmlots, but shall also provide high value farm inputs to the affected residents,” Baz added.
Their objective he explained is not just to give equal livelihood opportunity to the affected residents but improve their lives. Aside from compensation based on the fair market value of the lands, each family shall be reserved a slot in the construction work, will be allowed to till their lands while construction is ongoing and at the same time be provided with high value farm inputs like abaca and rubber.
“While the construction goes on for 5 years, the affected farmers shall be allowed to till their lands and at the same time given support to develop their new farms. When the project is finished their rubber are already productive, for example,” Baz explained.
It is definitely a win-win situation for all,” he added.
The 300 megawatt Pulangi 5 hydroelectric plant is reservoir-type dam. Actual displacement shall happen when the dam is finished and they start flooding the reservoir area.
Engr. Cerael Donggay, President and CEO of Greenergy said that the welfare of the affected residents and the whole island of Mindanao is on top of their intentions in pushing the project. “Mindanao cannot develop with the current power infrastructure and supply that we have,” said Donggay.
He also wasn’t able to hide his displeasure to the opposition to the project which he said “are not being truthful.”
The non-government organization Legal and Natural Rights Resource Center (LRC) has registered opposition to the project. Published reports of the opposition cited among others the displacement of more than 3,000 households and inundation of 78,000-ha by the project.
Donggay said that these figures are “outright lies.” Based on their field validation he said only 1,060 households will be directly affected and the flooded area for the plant’s reservoir would only 3,300-ha.
Baz said the figures of LRC and other oppositors “pure fiction.” The total land area of the 22 barangays to be affected by the Pulangi 5 is only about 30,000 hectares and only about a 10th of it will be flooded for the reservoir.
BusinessWeek Mindanao tried to contact LRC for their side of the story but got no response as of press time.
The Pulangi V hydroelectric project, the affected families of the proposed project in the areas of Kibawe, Kitaotao, Dangcagan and Damulog in Bukidnon and Pres. Roxas in North Cotabato shall be relocated in housing areas and shall have livelihood program.
Baz, said each housing area shall have access and subdivision roads, electric lines, water system, community center, chapel and tribal halls. Beneficiaries of these are both landowners and tenants whose lands and houses would be disrupted by the said project.
Also, part of the livelihood program for the affected communities include agro-forestry, such as the planting of rubber and fruit trees, engagement in freshwater fisheries, as well as, the development of tourism to generate income for these families, according to him.
Despite objections from NGOs, the Pulangi 5 project has already gained the endorsement of 18 out of the 22 barangays to be affected by the project. The proponents are confident, they get the remaining four endorsements in the next two months.
On the other hand, the 300 megawatt hydroelectric plant is seen to provide clean source of energy that can help solve the power shortage in Mindanao in the next years, as claimed by the Project Management of the Pulangi V HEP.
*Published on BusinessWeek Mindanao. 7 June 2010.