Pulangi V proponents turn table on critics, opposition

MALAYBALAY, Bukidnon (MindaNews/18 September 2010) — Proponents and critics of the proposed 300 mw Pulangi V hydroelectric power plant in southern Bukidnon and North Cotabato are on a head-on confrontation as the proponents of the project is turning the table on the critics.

Critics, however, maintain that they are just protecting the right to self determination of the Lumads in the proposed power plant project area.

In a strongly worded press statement, the proponents also accuse opposition to the project of doing their “noise” allegedly at the behest of the coal-fired power plants being proposed in Mindanao.

The Pulangi V project is a 300mw hydro electric power plant which is packaged by proponents to contribute substantially to clean and cheap energy to Mindanao which is suffering from a serious power crisis.

Butch Baz, manager of the Pulangi V Project Management Office said that its critic, “a certain Wilmar “Datu Bong” Ampuan is guilty of sowing disinformation and is just sour-graping for being rejected by his fellow Lumads in the traditional process of resolving some disagreements over the project.”

“They are very rabid in attacking the Pulangi V project and yet use suave and sophistication in promoting coal-fired power plants in Mindanao,” Baz said.

“How can Ampuan be the voice of the Lumads when he isolated himself from the traditional processes and he even does not know his numbers or are just using these for disinformation,” Baz said.

In an interview, Ampuan admitted that he walked out in a tribal gathering to discuss the Pulangi V issue sometime in July, 2010.

He said he disagreed with the decision of the tribal council to allow the conduct of Environmental Impact Study on the Pulangi V project.

It was learned that the tribal council then had decided to allow the conduct of the EIS and that they will meet again to decide whether to support the project or not after the EIS is presented to them.

Ampuan admitted that although he respects the consensus reached by the tribal council, personally he is opposed to the project.

Ampuan claimed that the project will flood 80 percent of their 40,000-hectare Ancestral domain claim in the area and displace more than 3,000 households in the 22 barangays that will be covered by the project.

The project proponents belie this claim as “gross exaggeration.”

“The affected area based on project design is only about 3,000 hectares and affected communities only about 1,000 households which shall enjoy full compensation and relocation assistance,” Baz said.

“These are public information and anybody can check on the veracity of the data,” he added.

Baz said he suspects that Ampuan is being manipulated by outside forces like the non- government organization Legal Rights and Natural Resource Center (LRC). The LRC is supporting the advocacy of the Lumads.

Ampuan and LRC are accusing the project of “development aggression and we say that the project is definitely not a development aggressor and it is LRC and other external supporters of Ampuan, an outsider in the Lumad community which has a lot of explaining to do.”

LRC strongly denies the accusations of the project proponents.

“LRC’s role is specific in providing legal and technical services and advocacy support to the community,” said Karl Cesar Rebuta, Program Officer of the LRC.

He added that they will respect and will not intervene in the ongoing traditional processes of the lumads to come up with a united stand on the issue.

He, however, regrets that the project is causing conflict in the otherwise harmonious inter-relationship of the Lumad communities in the area.

The Pulangi V project proponents know what development aggression is, and what we are doing in the ground now is in no way within its parameters as defined by the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (Pahra) which says “Development is development aggression when the people become the victims, not the beneficiaries; when the people are set aside in development planning, not partners in development; and when people are considered mere resources for
profit-oriented development, not the center of development . . . . Development aggression violates the human rights of our people in all their dimensions—economic, social, cultural, civil and political.”

“There is currently no earth movement or actual dislocation of communities in the area and what we are actually engaged now is to consult the people about the project and Ampuan himself as part of the Lumad’s tribal council knows that there was a consensus to allow the conduct of the Environmental Impact Study and that we shall present it to them again for them to decide whether to support the project or not,” Baz said.

What we are doing is all based on law. “Worse, the LRC has the temerity to accuse us of development aggression. Have they themselves respected Lumad traditional processes, when in fact, they are interfering in the processes of the Lumads they profess to advocate?” Baz asks.

The Pulangi V project which may cost U$900 is currently in its pre-development phase. It is being implemented by the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (Fibeco) and the Greenergy Development Corporation. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)