MALAYBALAY, Bukidnon (MindaNews/8 Feb) – A stakeholders’ forum on the proposed Pulangi 5 hydro electric power project in Kibawe town with about a thousand participants turned into a stage for Manobo Lumad elders to call on those opposed to the project to respect their traditions and processes.
Pulangi 5 is a 300-megawatt hydropower project undergoing pre-development stage.
Apo Caid Lansawan, 95, revered as the “Father of Arakan Valley,” said during the gathering Friday that they are pained by the fact that younger Manobos have been misrepresenting the development aspirations of the tribe and are allowing themselves to be used by outsiders who allegedly rely on foreign funding for their projects.
“If, indeed, they care for the Lumads, they should respect our traditional processes in settling tribal differences,” said Apo Lansawan, said to be the most senior Manobo elder in Bukidnon and North Cotabato areas.
Feliciano “Datu Mansalida” Anggaan, tribal chieftain of Damulog town and barangay captain of Anggaan, said non-governmental organizations are “misrepresenting them and causing division among the Manobos.”
He said the Legal Resources and Natural Resources Center (LRC) and other groups organizing to oppose the Pulangi 5 project should have followed the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) principle before entering their communities as their presence has affected cultural harmony.
He also lamented the moves of LRC and the indigenous people’s federation, Natabuk, on what he said was a “serious revision of Manobo culture and history” by allegedly insisting that one of their ancestors, Apo Mamalu, was buried in Mikasili in Damulog town.
“LRC facilitated the submission to the National Museum of a document signed by 22 persons to declare it as a historical site when in fact, we should have been consulted as it has implication on the whole Manobo history,” Anggaan said. Along with anthropologist Dr. Erlinda Burton of Xavier University, they opposed the application for the declaration as historical site.
Leonardo Vicente Corrales, LRC campaign paralegal, declined to comment on allegations that LRC is allegedly sowing division among the Lumads.
“Ang sulti sa akong team leader ang partner-community ang mutubag kay contention man na nila Anggaan nga we are dividing the Manobos so Manobos ra pud maka-refute” (My team leader said the partner-community will answer because Anggaan’s contention is we are dividing the Manobos so only the Manobos can refute), Corrales told MindaNews.
Josefino “Datu Mampaatlaw” Gonlibo, of Maramag town, said he tried to facilitate the mediation between the tribal elders and Natabuk chair Wilmar Ampuan. In that process, Ampuan was meted out a “constructive punishment for misrepresenting the elders and was required to pay one carabao,” said Gonlibo, who also works in the Central Mindanao University museum.
Anggaan however said that since Ampuan is his nephew, “para wala nay gubot, ako na mismo ang mihatag og kabaw sa ngalan sa akong pag umangkon, kay gusto man gud namo nga ang pagsupak o pag suporta ba kaha sa Pulangi 5 kami mag lingkod ug mag istorya kay dili namo kana tradisyun nga mag singgita sa kadalanan” (in order to buy peace, I myself volunteered to give one carabao on behalf of my nephew. We would have wanted that whatever decision we shall have on the Pulangi 5 project, whether to support or oppose, is agreed upon after a thorough dialogue because shouting in the streets is not our tradition).
The Pulangi 5 project is designed to generate 300 mw of renewable energy which will cost about US$900 million. It is currently in the pre-development phase.
Butch Bas of the Pulangi 5 Project Management Office said they have been consulting the affected communities
Of the 22 communities in Bukidnon’s Kitaotao, Kibawe, Damulog, Dangcagan and North Cotabato’s Roxas town, only Pinamula and Sanipon in Kibawe town have not signed a memorandum of agreement with them.
Bas also cited as “disinformation” reports that the project will submerge 70,000 hectares, saying that based on its engineering design, only 3,300 hectares, mostly hilly and sparsely populated, will be submerged.
“We have also designed sustainable livelihood projects for affected households like the provision of land and crop inputs like rubber, coffee, abaca, fruit trees and fruits,” Baz said.
“What pains us is that while we are doing double time to reach out to the people, the opposition does not have qualms repeating inaccurate information to sow disinformation and conflict. We appeal to our friends in the civil society to exercise even an iota of ethics because even in our most passionate advocacies, we are bound by time-honored values like honesty,” said Bas, a former ranking leader of the communist movement.
Meanwhile, members of the media covering the event from Cagayan de Oro felt insulted by a press release from LRC that accused members of the media covering the event organized by project pre-developers First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (Fibeco) and Greenergy Dev’t. Corporation as being used by the project proponents.
A press statement dated February 3 and signed by LRC’s Corrales, quoted Roldan “Datu Brunz” Babelon as saying there was going to be no rally but a tri-people’s forum.
“Ang mahitabo ini kay ila lang pa-snakon mga taga media kay wala may rally mahitabo ini. Pagpangilad kini (Most likely, they will just give the media practitioners snacks because there will be no rally to cover. This is a sham),” Babelon added.
Babelon condemned Fibeco “for using the indigenous peoples” and urged fellow Lumads “not to join this activity because the number of participants in the attendance sheets will be used as ‘pro-dam endorsement.’”
The LRC press statement listed the mobile number of Business Mirror correspondent Bong Fabe as the source of the invitation to the media. Fabe, however, said the insinuations that those covering the Fibeco-Greenergy event are being used by the project developers is malicious.
“We are not the issue here, we are just covering the event, in the same way that we are very generous in covering LRC press conferences and events. We would be as insulted if Fibeco and Greenergy accuse us of being used by LRC for covering an LRC event or press conference,” Fabe said.
In a letter to LRC Executive Director Judy Pasimio on February 5, Fabe demanded a “public apology in the form of a press statement from LRC-CDO team to be e-mailed to all the recipients of its (February 3) press statement.” The e-mailed press statement had 54 addressees.
In her e-mailed reply dated February 8, Pasimio acknowledged receipt of the letter and said “I will have a meeting with our CDO team to look into this matter, and I will respond to you accordingly. “
Earlier, on January 16, LRC sent out an advisory to the media that it will conduct “this year’s opening mobilization” – a “march protest action” – in Kibawe on January 17, in line with Task Force Save Pulangi’s “strong resolve to protect not only the environment but more so the lives and livelihood of the people from the threat of Fibeco’s Mega Dam V.”
The mass action included a mass in the morning of the 17th and a march from the public market to the town hall to the Fibeco office and a picket in front of the Fibeco office “to show the people’s strong opposition against the Fibeco and Greenergy’s Pulangi Dam V Project.”
“We respectfully request solidarity through media coverage to bring forth further the people’s major issues,” the advisory e-mailed to media by Corrales said. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin / MindaNews)