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28 Nov 2020

Keith Anthony S. Fabro, China Dialogue

Philippines: Pulangi hydro plant backed by China Energy Engineering risks inundating tribal land and damaging ecosystems, activists say

"Slipshod checks raise flood risk for China-Philippines dam", 20 November 2020

A Chinese-backed hydropower mega-project in the southern Philippines has sparked a row about how best to add more renewables to the country’s energy mix.

The dam and power plant will use the Pulangi River where it pours through a lush, forested canyon on the island of Mindanao. [...] The Philippine government argues that the new hydro plant also bolsters the country’s reliance on renewable energy. Conservationists disagree. Many see it as a needlessly high-impact facility that will inundate agro-forested tribal land in Bukidnon province, damaging wildlife, ecosystems and indigenous communities. [...]

In April 2019, Duterte, the first Philippine president to come from Mindanao, attended the signing of the US$800-million contract between China Energy Engineering Co Ltd and Pulangi Hydropower Corporation (PHC). It took place during the Second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. [...]

PHC has pledged to observe the Philippine government’s environmental standards during construction and the expected 50-year life of the dam. [...] Neither the Philippines’ Environmental Management Bureau nor PHC responded when approached for comment.

Alternative generation options

Instead of huge dams, environmental activists are pushing for the development of micro and small hydro projects and community-based cooperatives. They argue these will have a minimal ecological footprint on river systems and are appropriate to the Philippines’ largely rural population.

[...] “Additionally, the loss of ancestral land… is an incalculable cost, as tribal spirituality and deceased ancestors are tied to the land.”