Isnag minorities oppose construction of megadams on the Apayao-Abulog River

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The Isnag minorities of Cordillera strongly oppose the Gened Hyrdoelectric Power Plant, a project for the construction of two megadams that will inundate their communities. They said that they are against the project as it encroaches on their ancestral land, contrary to claims by the company that residents entered into an agreement with the company.

The reservoir covers 2,883 hectares of Isnag ancestral land.

Gened 1 and Gened 2

Two dams–Gened 1 and Gened 2–are set to be constructed on the Apayao-Abulog River which crosses the provinces of Apayao and Cagayan. The regime awarded the contract for this project to the Pan Pacific Renewable Power Philippines Corporation (PPRPPC), one of the beneficiaries of the $3-billion loan promised by China which was arranged by Rodrigo Duterte himself when he visited the country.

The project has been queued for decades due to residents’ strong resistance.

In 2017, the Duterte regime issued an environmental compliance certificate for the said project.

Last April, the construction of the ₱33-billion Gened 1 has started. On the other hand, the ₱52-billion Gened 2 will be constructed at the upper portion of the river. The company claims that these dams have a capacity to generate 510 megawatts (MW) of elecricity.

The electricity that will be generated in these dams will be sold to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) which is 40% owned by the State Grid Corporation of China. Estimates by Dangadang, the revolutionary publication in Cordillera, indicate that the PPRPPC is set to earn ₱2,883.59 per hour from these projects. Within a year, it will be able to sell up to 5.4 gigawatt/hour which amounts to a total of ₱15.6 million.

Of this amount, only 1% or ₱155,572 will go to the reactionary state. Half of this measly amount will go to the Department of Energy. The remaining ₱77,857 will be shared among local government units—10% for the region, 30% for the prubinsya, 35% for the municipalities, and 25% for the barangays. Only ₱19,464 will go to the barangays annually.

Isnags deceived

In the early part of 2021, the Isnag Indigenous Cultural Communities which represent 22 barangays issued two resolutions to express their opposition to the said project.

To reverse this, the PPRPPC organized meetings in March to April wherein residents were deceived into signing documents indicating their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent for the project. Indigenous leaders also noted that they did not sign any memorandum of agreement or MOA with the company. Some of the individuals who “signed” the said documents were not present during the meetings. Some of those who signed also moved to have their signatures removed after being informed about the impact of the project on their culture and communities.

On May 30, the association of Isnag elders along with Kabuyao Youth formally requested the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera, to nullify the MOA.

The project will inundate 20 barangays with 12,932 residents. The water source of communities, rice fields, farmlands and pasture lands will be diverted to the reservoir of the dam. With the constrcution of the dams, all surrounding areas will be declared as “watershed areas.” This will prohibit farming, logging and other economic activities in the ancestral area which used to be the Isnag people’s main source of livelihood. During strong rains, the water in these dams will overflow and inundate even neighboring barangays. It is also vulnerable to collapse as it is located along the Bangui Fault Line.

“This (the dam project) will result in death. Many will be drowned, and farming will be prohibited. It is important for us to oppose and firmly fight this. Let us all join the struggle. Let us take up arms!” This was the statement of an Isnag elder who lives in Kabugao, Apayao. Their tribe has been opposing the project since 2004.

Isnag minorities oppose construction of megadams on the Apayao-Abulog River