More stakeholders urged to look into proposed hydro plant in Davao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 May) – Vice Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte said that more stakeholders should be invited to look into the proposal of energy developer San Lorenzo Builders and Developers Group, Inc. to build a 140-megawatt “run-of-river” hydropower plant aiming to harness energy from the Davao and Tamugan rivers.

Duterte said he was concerned about the potential environmental issues that would arise if the proposal is approved and the plant built.

“The diversion of water through a turbine is a concern. I asked the committee on energy to invite all stakeholders to examine the proposal closely, especially by those who have the know-how on diverting water and its effects,” Duterte said.

The vice mayor described San Lorenzo’s application to be “harder than passing through a needle’s eye,” because of the possibility of pollution.

“There could be farmers downstream … who would be affected,” he said.

He added that the developers also had to contend with zoning issues as it would be difficult to reclassify protected areas that the property would pass through, if any.

When asked if the council was burdened by the decision, Duterte said it’s difficult to have to choose between electricity and water. “We’re talking about water, and from what I know, the Tamugan River replenishes our aquifers.”

In an interview, the city council’s energy committee chair, Louie John Bonguyan, said committee hearings are ongoing and that San Lorenzo has been advised to meet with the Watershed Management Council to clarify how the development would affect the rivers.

In an earlier presentation to the city council, San Lorenzo officials said the site would include Gumalang up to Lamanan, both in Calinan.

A run-of-river power project involves redirecting river water to a weir and feeding it downhill to the power station.

According to a company presentation, the Department of Energy has already approved San Lorenzo’s timeline, with studies to start in 2014 and commercial operations targeted in 2019, depending on the completion of the application process.

A copy of the timeline showed the developer aims to conduct within this year a comprehensive feasibility study, as well as reconnaissance and studies on topography, hydrology and geology.

The developer also aims to apply for permits and endorsements to the local government unit of Davao City, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and the National Water Resource Board (NWRB) this year.

Following the applications and studies the developer would be conducting this year, it is also targeting the comprehensive feasibility studies on the existing power market, as well as the socio-environmental impact, preliminary civil design, electrical facilities, and financial requirements come 2015.

Alongside these are the developer’s application for final permitting and endorsements from the NCIP, NWRB, National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Energy Regulatory Commission.

The company targets the conduct of a detailed study of the engineering design by 2016, along with the geotechnical and hydrological specifications, as well as the creation of access roads and transmission line routes.

Detailed cost estimates and financial studies may also begin by this time, depending on the status of approval by the regulatory agencies as well as the city government.