Subject: [cwj 132] Protests Hold Back Philippine Dam Project
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2000 18:25:39 -0800
Seq: 132

Protests Hold Back Philippine Dam Project

By Suvendrini Kakuchi

TOKYO, Oct 30 (IPS) - The massive San Roque dam now being
constructed in the Philippine north was supposed to be the answer
to that country's power problems. To its Japanese funders,
however, it seems to have become a monumental headache.

Opposition against the dam has been relentless almost from the
very beginning, and now there are at least 44 Philippine and
international non-government organisations (NGOs) that have said
they are against it.

According to these groups, the hydroelectric project,  which when
completed in 2004 will become the 12th largest dam in the world,
has serious environmental and social impacts that have not been
taken into consideration.

A Philippine legislator even visited Tokyo last week in a bid
to stop Japanese funding for it. ''Our last resort to protect our
livelihood from the dam is to tell the Japanese people about our
fears,'' Philippine Congressman Ronald Casalan told the press here
on Friday.

''I am asking whether the Japanese public is satisfied that
their own tax money is used this way -- to destroy the environment
and cause harm to indigenous people,'' he said.

Japanese activists have also joined the fray, saying the project
is yet another example of how Japan continues to use public money
to fund environmentally destructive projects abroad despite its
supposed reforms in its aid policies.

Ikuko Matsumoto of Friends of the Earth Japan says this is much
against the wishes of the Japanese people and clashes with Tokyo's
pledge to use its overseas development aid (ODA) for environment

Proponents of the 1.19 billion-dollar San Roque dam, however, say
it will generate as much as 345 megawatts of power, as well as
provide irrigation for 87,000 hectares of land in the lowlands.

The dam, which is now about 40 percent finished, is being built
on the Agno River that flows from the Cordillera mountain range in
the northern Philippines.

While the dam is not an official Japanese ODA project, its
funding comes from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation
(JBIC) that is considered to be on par with the World Bank.

The JBIC was formed in October 1999, and is the result of the
merger of the Export-Import Bank of Japan and the Overseas
Economic Cooperation Fund, the two institutions that represented
the low-interest, loan disbursement sectors of Japanese ODA.

In October 1998, the Eximbank had approved a 302 million-dollar
loan to the dam's private developers and later also took into
consideration an additional 400 million-dollar loan. Largely
because of mounting criticism against the project, however, the
initial loan has yet to be disbursed in full.

Interestingly, the San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC) is owned by
a consortium dominated by Japanese companies. The giant Marubeni
Corporation owns 41 percent of SRPC while the utility firm Kansai
Electric has 7.5 percent.

Although the New York-based Sithe Energies Inc. has the
majority share of 51 percent,  this company is believed to be 29
percent owned by Marubeni.

A Philippine cybernewspaper recently quoted SRPC manager Raymond
Cunningham as saying that power from the dam ''can be relied on
day and day out. It is very valuable power most other plants would
not generate''.

But Casalan said here that the project is ''illegal'' as it goes
against the wishes of indigenous folk. It is a clear violation of
the Philippines' Indigenous People's Rights Act of 1997, said the
Philippine lawmaker, who belongs to the Ibaloi tribe that is going
to be directly affected by the San Roque dam.

Casalan said that while some villages living downstream have
endorsed the project, Benguet province, which is situated in the
upstream area, is against it. He added that the Ibaloi and other
tribal groups living upstream are angry because they will lose
their water supply once the dam is completed.

He said these tribes constitute at least 500 households that eke
a livelihood out of rice farming, although other Philippine
activist groups say about 2,000 Ibaloi families will be affected.

Casalan and many green groups say the San Roque Dam will also
destroy these tribes' farmlands as a result of silt and sediment
collected in the upstream when the downflow is interrupted because
of the dam.

In addition, some activists say 1.2 million people living on
the plains are at risk in the event that the dam is damaged and
water overflows.

Ironically enough, Philippine officials, aided by foreign
consultants, have argued that the dam would actually prevent
flooding in the area.

A JBIC spokesperson, meanwhile, has said that environmental
assessments regarding the dam have been conducted, including two
just this year. But he did not elaborate on what the assessments

Another spokesperson for the Bank said that in response to the
complaints raised by the indigenous tribes in the project area,
JBIC officials recently conducted a fact-finding mission in the
Philippines and returned just late last week.

Casalan said his people would be willing to let the project be on
two conditions. One is if there is a ''concrete plan to relocate
and pay compensation to the thousands of families who will have to
move out''.

''Also,'' he said, ''we want an environmental assessment to be
conducted to guarantee that the indigenous people will have a
water management project in place to carry on as rice farmers
after the dam stops their water (supply).'' (END/IPS/ap-dv-en-


       [c] 2000, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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