DAVAO CITY - We from the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) – Davao denounce the recent issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to the Aboitiz’s Hydropower Development Corporation (Hedcor) for their Tamugan-Panigan Hydropower Project and may pave the way for the privatization of Davao City’s water.

Hedcor and the Davao City Water District (DCWD)’s squabble over the use of the Tamugan River might come to an end by the EMB’s order which also dismissing DCWD’s protest against the Hedcor’s application of water right to the National Water Resources Board (NWRB).

Last March 24, 2009, the EMB has finally gave Hedcor its much sought ECC for its Hydropower plant in the Tamugan and Panigan rivers, on this decision, three (3) points were emphasized:

NWRB is taking too long in reaching a decision on Hedcor’s application for a Water permit and as such has delayed the implementation of the said project.
  If this is the case, what does it has to do with EMB? Why make it as a basis for making a decision? Is EMB pre-empting NWRB into making a decision so it will just have to follow what EMB’s resolution? EMB’s mandate is environment protection and not project implementation.  It ensures compliance of all projects whether public or private to environmental standards set by the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) and other government agencies concern.  How about the Environmental Impact Assessment, which is the most important aspect of a project? Did it matter in EMB’s decision in granting Hedcor an ECC?

Hedcor’s project is in a different location of the river.  Hedcor’s and DCWD’s projects are in different locations of the river but are in the same river. Hedcor on the upper portion and DCWD in the lower part. Now you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that whatever is thrown upstream will surely go downstream, because that is how river flows. But what is alarming is all of Hedcor’s hydropower project applications are in the upstream of the Talomo-Lipadas watershed system.  Its projects do not only endanger the watershed but will also render Hedcor having a virtual monopoly on the surface water supply of Davao City . Having a virtual monopoly on this particular service is like sitting on a gold mine, which seems what Hedcor have acquired when the ECC was issued. Thus, if Hedcor decides to venture into water distribution? Why not? It has all the surface water supply of Davao City .

EMB upholds and adheres to the primacy of water over and above other usages in so far as river water is concern.  This casted doubt into EMB’s role as an “environment guardian” of this country, saying, “….the office has been and will always uphold and adhere to the primacy of water over and above other usages in so far as river water is concern… the use of Tamugan and Panigan rivers as drinking water and energy or power source can both co-exist.” This sounds like a statement from Hedcor a few months ago, one agument that they have been peddling ever since.  Was it primacy of water for drinking source or power source?

On March 19, 2008 the EMB’s Review Committee submitted their recommendation endorsing that an ECC be issued to Hedcor despite of the fact that Hedcor only submitted an Initial Environment Examination (IEE) and without submitting an Environmental Impact Assessment which is one of the most significant requirement in every project because it requires the project proponent to undergo [a] “…process that involves evaluating and predicting the likely impacts of a project (including cumulative impacts) on the environment during construction, commissioning, operation and abandonment.  It also includes designing appropriate preventive, mitigating and enhancement measures addressing these consequences to protect the environment and the community’s welfare.  The process is undertaken by, among others, the project proponent and/or EIA Consultant, EMB, a Review Committee, affected communities and other stakeholders.”  How come the review committee recommended the issuance of Environmental Compliance Certificate to Hedcor when it has not even gone to the process laid down in the requirements for an ECC?  The malicious minds might think that the recent visit of GMA on Hedcor’s Sibulan project at has something to do with this EMB’s decision.

Water is a human right.  It is one of the essentials and commons that must be enjoyed by people and should not be utilized for profit.  With this recent development, we from FDC Davao cannot avoid to anticipate Davao water privatization through the utilization of the Tamugan River by Hedcor.  This kind of conclusion is not difficult to come about considering Hedcor is one of the biggest power companies in the Philippines and is one of the top earners in the power industry, so all its efforts are seemingly directed on how to further its profit generation for its owners and stockholders. So the drive for profit is the main consideration in this kind of company or any other company if it wants to survive the competition.

On the other hand, we the consumers, the civil society, and the progressive groups are calling for the EMB to exercise due diligence and care concerning these matters.  Review and reconsider the ECC issued to Hedcor.  Prioritize the people’s right to water. -30-

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