Decades since the completion of a hydroelectric power plant in Mindanao, concerns are still mounting over its impact on the lives and livelihood of indigenous peoples.
But for many residents and energy advocates, now is not the time to slow the shift to clean power.
Jaira Mondez reports.
With the Philippine inflation still soaring, some Filipinos living in the southern Philippines get temporary reprieve from relatively affordable electricity rates.
Among them is Lysle Delfino, who usually sets aside around P2,000 or over $30 per month for power bills – an amount lower than her average electricity costs when she was still living in the city.
This is all thanks to Bukidnon’s renewable energy source – the Pulangi river.
That body of water is powering the Pulangi IV hydroelectric power plant – which has three generating units with 85 megawatts each.
It was constructed in 1982, and became operational in 1985.
The hydroelectric power plant is operated by the government-owned National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR)
But while some residents are benefiting from the affordable energy produced by the plant, thousands of indigenous peoples living near the river were displaced.
The Talaindig-Manobo are known to be dependent on bodies of water such as rivers, but due to the hydro electric power plant they were stripped off of their livelihood and ancestral domain.
A dozen villages in Bukidnon have been affected by the construction of Pulangi IV hydroelectric power plant. But the NAPOCOR asserts they are not abandoned, saying it has offered assistance through various projects and programs especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But for IP leader Datu Diosdado Seberia, these initiatives are not enough. He wants the funds to go straight to the indigenous peoples, instead of the local government.
Despite the proven benefits of shifting to clean energy sources, the proposed rehabilitation of Agus-Pulangi hydropower complex – which consists of seven hydropower plants including Pulangi IV remains on hold
Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte earlier called on the Marcos administration to prioritize the rehab of the Agus-Pulangi hydropower complex.
For Duterte, this can make the Philippines a ‘world leader’ in climate action and help Mindanao meet its expanding energy requirements.
Gerry Arances, convenor of Power for People Movember echoes Duterte’s sentiments.
“The energy crisis hounding the world should be an opportunity for the Philippine government to hasten the shift to clean power without leaving anyone behind. This is the idea behind calls of just transition,”
Energy advocates believe the Philippines is capable of making such a move given the country’s rich natural resources like wind, solar and water.
Environmental groups are in high hopes that in a few years time, the country will soon harness this potential.