Hydro plant faces tough battle at council

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A MULTI-MILLION dollar hydropower plant proposed to be set up in Davao City is facing a tough battle at the City Council after some officials frowned on the proposed project.

This developed even as Mayor Rodrigo Duterte refused to comment on the planned entry of a power company eyeing to construct a 140-megawatt hydropower plant in barangays Gumalang and Lamanan in Calinan District.

"Naa pa na sa City Council eh. Pagabot sa panahon, I will tell you nganong akong pirmahan o nganong dili nako pirmahan (It's still in the City Council. I will tell you soon why I sign or not sign it)," Duterte briefly said when asked about the project.


Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte said that based on the committee hearings conducted, the proposed hydropower plant will be using massive water from Davao River and Tamugan River and that it will also be diverting the used water to other areas instead of returning it to the rivers.

Duterte said this will greatly affect the water level of the two rivers especially that of Tamugan, which is one of the protected watershed areas in the city and source of drinking water for the people of Davao.

"Ang bug-at diha ang decision making kung tugtan ba. Tubig man gud atong giistoryahan (What's difficult here is the decision-making on our part. We are dealing with water resource here)," the young Duterte said.

He said the construction and operation of the $500-$600 million proposed hydropower plant might cause harm to the environment.

The vice mayor said he already advised the committee on environment and natural resources to conduct a comprehensive hearing and ensure that all experts and stakeholders are consulted.

The proposed project is aimed at alleviating not only the power need of Mindanao but also ease the flooding problem in the city.

Oscar Violago, president of San Lorenzo Builders and Developers Group Inc., said their proposed hydropower plant will be located at barangays Gumalang and Lamanan in Calinan District. He said they will be sourcing their water mainly from the Davao River and only a fraction from Tamugan River.

He said they will build a "low-dam," which is only about 25 meters high at elevation of 209 meters, which is below the 300-meter threshold for the recharging zones of the Davao water aquifers.

Thus, the fear of most communities for possible flooding when the dam releases water during rainy season is far from happening, he said.

Violago said that contrary to the fear of some, the dam could even ease the flooding problem in the city since they will divert huge volume of water from the Davao River to their hydroelectric dam, thus decreasing the influx of huge volume of water directly to the Davao River especially during heavy rains in Calinan area.

The project cost is estimated to be around $500-600 million. The city stands to earn P300-500 million a year from taxes for the said project, Violago said.

The San Lorenzo Builders was behind the $680 million Casecnan Multi-purpose Irrigation and Power Project in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija which is now a first-class municipality.

The project is one of the largest irrigation and hydroelectric facilities in the Philippines with a 26-kilometer transbasin tunnel. It provides electricity to 350,000 homes and irrigation water to 137,000 hectares of farmlands.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 29, 2014.

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