SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Dam, damn

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/17 April) – There’s no question that hydropower is the most efficient source of energy and doesn’t add up to the environmental woes caused by the use of bunker fuel and coal, the dirtiest source there is. And, like other sources of renewable energy like wind and solar, it can be readily had in Mindanao given the presence of major water bodies in the island such as the Pulangi River that emanates from Bukidnon.

Citing power shortage projections in the next few years, the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (Fibeco) and the Green Energy Corporation have proposed building another hydropower facility in southern Bukidnon, the Pulangi V mega dam project which is seen to generate some 300 megawatts. Some Lumad groups however are opposing the project in that it will inundate areas within their ancestral domain that they hold sacred, including the burial ground of a revered ancestor, Apu Mamalu.

In the wake of the opposition the project proponents assured the Lumads of relocation and economic assistance in exchange for their displacement. They also succeeded in getting the support of other Lumad groups and in using them to refute the historical and cultural arguments of fellow Lumads who opposed the project. So unfortunate that the proponents have to resort to fomenting divisions among the Lumads by subtly pitting them against each other in a word war on who knows better about their own history and culture.

What the proponents have done is an old trick but an effective one. Two decades ago, the Philippine National Oil Company used a similar ploy in its effort to build a geothermal power plant in Mount Apo. As is the case with Pulangi V, a number of Lumad groups opposed the geothermal power project, also on the ground that it would desecrate their beliefs and culture. To dramatize their opposition, they performed the dyandi, a ritual where they vowed to the spirits to defend Mount Apo to the last drop of their blood.

PNOC was unfazed. It responded by making the pro-company Lumads perform a ritual asking the spirits’ permission for the project. As Datu Tomas, a tribal chieftain from Davao del Sur, lamented in a forum in Davao City, “Gipaaway nila ang mga ispiritu” (They made the spirits fight against each other).

With the proponents all eager to ram down our throats the wisdom of building Pulangi V, let’s just hope they won’t start flooding the proposed dam site even if the issue of social acceptability has remained unresolved. Remember, this is exactly what the Marcos government did in its rush to build Pulangi IV.

And look at the Pulangi IV reservoir in Maramag town. Silt swept down from denuded uplands has made the manmade lake shallow in many parts making it less productive now. Sooner or later, it may revert to its original state as dry land.

That’s quite a lesson there. But who gives a damn? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])

 

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