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Cordillera: Decommission San Roque Dam at Hearing

Cordillera Peoples Alliance
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO)
November 26, 2009

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) reiterated its position for the decommissioning of the San Roque Dam during the 8th public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Climate Change headed by its Chairperson, Senator Loren B. Legarda, on the devastating effects of Typhoon Pepeng held in San Manuel, Pangasinan on November 25, 2009. The public hearing aimed to set directions for effective disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation measures and strategies at all levels. It investigated the San Roque dam operations and the water releases of major dams, which contributed to the massive flooding in the province and other provinces in Central Luzon at the height of Typhoon Pepeng.

According to Jill Cariño, CPA Vice Chairperson for External Affairs, “The sedimentation upstream of the Agno River continues to fill the reservoir resulting in the decreased capacity of the San Roque Dam reservoir to hold water. Thus, water releases by SRPC are bound to happen as rainfall due to typhoons increases with the worsening of climate change. This is a serious concern of the indigenous peoples in Itogon Benguet, who are affected by the rising siltation along the Agno River upstream of the dam, as well as of the downstream communities in Pangasinan who are greatly affected by flooding as experienced during Typhoon Pepeng.” CPA was invited as one of the resource persons for the public hearing.

Ms. Cariño further raised the issue on the violations of indigenous peoples’ rights committed by the San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC), citing that the affected Itogon communities in Benguet did not consent to the construction of the San Roque Dam. Cariño also spoke of the threat of earthquakes that could seriously damage the dam, and earthquakes that could be induced by the dam itself. She cited the case of the Zipingpu Dam in Sichuan China where a devastating earthquake killed more than 80,000 people in May 2008 and was found by scientists to be triggered by the weight of the reservoir of the Zipingpu Dam. ”We do not want the experience of China to happen here. With these concerns, the CPA is calling for the decommissioning of the San Roque Dam. We also call for the Power Purchase Agreement entered into by the Philippine government with the SRPC to be rescinded because it is totally disadvantageous for the Filipino people,” Cariño added.

The CPA has been at the forefront of the opposition against the San Roque dam since the start of the project in 1996, knowing the environmental impacts and social and economic costs in Benguet and Pangasinan that this will result to. In a statement, CPA cited that Agno River communities in Benguet, affected communities in Pangasinan led by the Tignay Dagiti Mannalon a Mangwayawaya iti Agno (TIMMAWA, Peasant Movement to Free the Agno River) and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance sounded warning of massive flooding in Pangasinan prior to dam construction, and reiterated it several times before and after dam completion, but it was not heeded by the SRPC, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and the government. Further, the CPA stated that the SRPC, National Power Corporation, JBIC, former President Ramos who hails from Pangasinan, and the Arroyo government that pushed for the construction and operation of the San Roque Dam should be held accountable for the devastation the dam has caused.

Present during the hearing were Congressman Mark O. Conjuanco along with municipal mayors and municipal representatives of the 5th District of Pangasinan. Congressman Conjuanco expressed their plan to gather all evidences in order to file a case against the National Power Corporation for the damages caused by flooding due to the release of water from the San Roque dam. Also present were SRPC President Ryukichi Kawaguchi and Senior Vice President William B. Connel. The hearing was held inside the SRPC compound near the spillway of the dam.

Further reading on the San Roque Dam from Probe International

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