San Roque dam was opposed 10 years ago

October 28, 2009 at 5:09 am 5 comments


By Yolanda Z. Sotelo

DAGUPAN CITY – Some 10 years ago before and during the construction of the San Roque Multi-Purpose Dam, international and local non-government organizations actively campaigned against its establishment.

During those years, Pangasinan officials now calling for the dam’s decommissioning were either quiet or even supported the $1.2 billion project.

And while it was Pangasinan that was affected by the dam’s tons of excess water, it was Cordillera-based church-led multi-sectoral group Movement Against San Roque Dam and all Mega Dams (MASRDMD) and the Cordillera People’s Alliance and people’s organizations in the Cordilleras that strongly fought the project.

They were able to get the support of international organizations like the International Rivers Network (IRN) and Friends of Earth, Japan which dished out reams of studies that cited the disadvantages of hosting the biggest dam in Southeast Asia .

Tinmawa, a group of peasants and gold panners from San Manuel and San Nicolas towns, likewise opposed the dam, citing loss of livelihood and their ancestral lands, but their voices proved feeble against the national government’s project.

“It is being rammed on our throats,” said MASRDMD in a paper titled Let the Agno River Flow! Stop the San Roque Dam Project!

The recent flooding that caused heavy toll on lives and properties has been foreseen by the Friends of Earth Japan and the IRN.

In 1999, Friends of Earth Japan commissioned hydrologist Peter Willing who found that the reservoir was only designed to contain a relatively small flood expected to occur once every five years.

“The dam will not contain larger floods (and) building a dam that will contain the five-year flood is asking those below the dam to develop a false sense of security resulting in farm more devastating floods when the five-year magnitude of flood does arrive,” Willing said as quoted by the Friends of Earth, Japan.

The IRN also reviewed the project’s environmental impact assessment on its supposed flood control component.

It said: “Because the reservoir will always be filled at maximum capacity for power and irrigation purposes, it is likely that insufficient storage will be available to store water from major storm and flood events. In order to provide storage for floods, large volumes of water must be released from the reservoir well in advance of the forecast flood. (But) there does not appear to be an adequate flood forecasting system, flood warning system, spillway gate management plan or evacuation and community preparedness plan.”

Prophetic words, they were.

While the dam is supposed to mitigate flooding, Pangasinan was flooded in 2003 (the year it started operating) because of typhoon Chedeng and in 2004 because of typhoon Marce.

The provincial government under then Gov. Victor Agbayani, second district representative, asked the San Roque dam managers to release water before it reaches 280 meters above sea level.

But this year, with typhoon Pepeng causing heavy rains, San Roque had to dump excess water at the rate of 5,070 cubic meters per second for several hours, inundating almost the entire province, destroying billions worth of crops and infrastructure and leaving 57 persons dead.

The studies ten years ago are proving true.

Another issue that has surfaced is the ability to withstand earthquakes especially with faults running close to the dam reservoir.

Phivolcs officials have allayed fears about the dam breaking because of earthquake, saying it was seven kilometers away from the San Manuel fault.

But the IRN said there was no indication that there was a site specific study conducted to determine ground motions for the dam.

“No seismic hazard analysis appears to have taken place, which means that all potential sources of seismic activity may not have been identified. The ground acceleration recommended for the dam appears to have been taken directly from a seismic study performed for the coal-fired power plant in Sual,” it said.

The IRN pointed out that the Digdig Fault which caused the 1990 Intensity 7.8 earthquake, is just 26 kilometers away from the dam.

But what if the national government decides to decommission the dam? Then the Philippine Government will have to pay the remaining balance of the $1.2 billion dollars used for the power component of the dam, and the $400 million counterpart of the NPC to cover the non-power component. Both loans were taken from the Export-Import Bank of Japan.

The San Roque Dam was constructed through a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) scheme by a private consortium of foreign investors composed of Marubeni Corp. and Kansai Electric Company of Japan, and Sithe Energies of the USA .

While the Philippine Government pays the NPC counterpart, the foreign investors are assured of worry-free return of investment because the NPC will buy the power at a price set by the SRPC, even if it uses all the generated power or not.

Any which way, the Filipino people seem to be at the losing end of the dam venture.

Entry filed under: Features. Tags: , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Linda Olivar  |  January 30, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    The farmers in Pangasinan, Tarlac and up to Nueva Ecija will be blessed with prolific crops and will also alleviate their lives against poverty as soon as the reregulating pond will irrigate thousand and thousands of hectares of land and more so if the water becomes potable, siutable for drinking!

    Reply
  • 2. prof. nicanor o. melecio,mbm  |  August 4, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Miss Linda, What farmers or farmers organizations should know is whetther or not the re-regulating pond will be effectively filled during dryseason to be able to supply the sun parched farmlands by then. Will the spill way controllers(srpc) be willing to open their gates to provide enough water against their own power generation needs? My discussion with some regional NIA officials indicate otherwise. They say that srpc is not willing as it would mean loss of power generating income to srpc.They also talk of wanting to takeover the the spillway management but could not show me any official position paper why this must really be so and how.
    On drinking water , the dam waters fyi is laced with toxic chemicals( mercury and cyanide) as a result of mining operations upriver which makes it unfit for human and animal consumption. Thus, be careful not to eat the “giant” tilapias or fish grown at the dam reservoir as they are most likely contaminated…better have the srpc officials present bfad tissue exam results that the fish are mercury free when you are served the same in case you tour the san roque dam
    in the future. If interested to know more about the topic, visit urdaneta city university on August 13, 1 to 5 pm forum on dams & environment. see you…. all thebest, profmelecio2000@yahoo.com

    august 13,

    Reply
  • 3. Ermin  |  August 4, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    My friend Nick Melecio said that we should be careful not to eat the “giant” tilapias or fish grown at the dam reservoir as they are most likely contaminated by mercury and cyanide as a result of the mining operation somewhere in the mountain areas of Benguet.
    With that kind of argumentation, we should also not consume the bangus and other water products we tend at our fishponds and fish pens in Pangasinan as they are too laced with these poisons from mining.

    Reply
  • 4. prof. nicanor o. melecio,mbm  |  August 6, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Ermin bases his “argumentation” based on my fair warning to unsuspecting pepple served with tilapias grown in San Roque dam reservoir.Apparently, he is unable to distinguish the mine-tailings-contaminated waters of Upper Agno which supplies San Roque Dam from the mining -free headwaters of Pantal-Sinocalan River which supplies Dagupan fishponds with freshwater…as in his inability to distinguish wife from mistress, budoir from an office.Thus true to form he equates the contaminated still waters of San Roque Dam with the twice-a-day seawater -flushed shallow -bottomed Dagupan fishponds.He should know better having grown in Arellano where his ancestors lived, their fence just a stone”s throw from a tributary of Pantal-Sinocalan rriver. Why he chooses to forget a daily backyard fact but chooses instead to equate the same for another as distant as San Roque Dam he might not even have visited is characteristically”Erminian”- a ploy to mislead readers in the guise of ichampioning Dagupenos.

    Reply
  • 5. prof. nicanor o. melecio,mbm  |  August 6, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Ermin bases his “argumentation” based on my fair warning to unsuspecting pepple served with tilapias grown in San Roque dam reservoir.Apparently, he is unable to distinguish the mine-tailings-contaminated waters of Upper Agno which supplies San Roque Dam from the mining -free headwaters of Pantal-Sinocalan River which supplies Dagupan fishponds with freshwater…as in his inability to distinguish wife from mistress, budoir from an office.Thus true to form he equates the contaminated still waters of San Roque Dam with the twice-a-day seawater -flushed shallow -bottomed Dagupan fishponds.He should know better having grown in Arellano where his ancestors lived, their fence just a stone”s throw from a tributary of Pantal-Sinocalan rriver. Why he chooses to forget a daily backyard fact but instead to equate the same for another as distant as San Roque Dam he might not even have visited is characteristically”Erminian”- a ploy to mislead readers in the guise of championing Dagupenos.

    Reply

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