2 UP experts reiterate hardline stance over Cantakoy project

The already cancelled Cantakoy mini-hydro project has surfaced anew as a fresh political battleground between critics of the present administration and incumbent officials following Bohol’s total blackout experience last July 6 when the 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck Leyte and cut off power supply to Bohol.

But experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) reiterated their earlier findings why they had ruled the P1.3 billion project, nixed by the provincial board in 2012, as potentially hazardous to the people and the environment, adding that the hydro project had “serious transparency and technical fraud issues.”

Drs. Carlo Arcilla and Rene Rollon, both UP professors, provided some telling findings of their expert investigation which must have precisely led the project proponents during the past provincial administration to stall their own proposal.

Arcilla said Cantakoy failed in the expert evaluation because, for one, the project “lacked transparency in the presentation of its geological background.”

In securing environmental clearance, the project was “misclassified” as a “thermal plant, rather than hydro-dam,” Rollon said.

Rollon is the head of the UP Environmental Science and a member of the UP Advisory Council, a group of Boholano UP professors and experts who have volunteered free services to the provincial government.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Sec. Ernesto Pernia is a former head of the council.

Arcilla is not a Boholano but still a Bisaya formerly heading the UP National Institute of geological Science (UP-NIGS).

In the wake of the current energy crisis, some critics insinuated that the Cantakoy project in Danao must have supplied electricity now had it not allegedly been opposed when the incumbent capitol leadership assumed.

Rollon said the province under Gov. Edgar Chatto has never opposed the project, which has instead been reviewed precisely for good planning and proper implementation because Bohol needs additional power.

There were “errors in the calculations of the elevation of the dam and impounded water which would have exceeded regulations,” Arcilla said.

Also, he said, there was a “fraudulent changing of the nature of the project from thermal plant to dam which deviously avoided required public consultation.”

“Luckily, the dam was not built as proposed because it is near the epicenter of the North Bohol earthquake,” the geological scientist said.

A recent UP-NIGS masters’ thesis shows the relation of the underground fault to the proposed dam site and more recent studies show its proximity.

“If it will be built, it has to be designed and probably located much better,” Arcilla said.

FAILURE INCOMPLIANCE

Further, the Cantakoy project was “a failure in terms of compliance to the standards of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process,” Rollon said.

He said it was “misclassified in the project screening/scoping as a thermal plant , rather than a hydro-power dam.”

By “thermal,” a power plant is fuelled by diesel or coal.

Rollon said a hydro-electric plant is considered environmentally-critical if it generates 25 megawatts and building a dam to impound 20 million cubic meters of water is already environmentally-critical, too.

Although the original plan was to produce 9-10 megawatts, the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) being applied was for a facility with only 5 megawatts classified as a thermal plant and not hydro-power dam, Rollon said.

The proponents “did not say” it was actually intended for a hydro-power dam, said Rollon who also has 14 years of expertise as an ECC reviewer at the Department of Environment and Natural Resourc4es (DENR).

He said that in applying for an environmental clearance, project classification is critical, “just as one should not secure a sari-sari store permit for constructing a shopping mall.”

“WE’RE NOT AGAINST, BUT”

“Wa ta mosupaksaproyekto (We are not against the project) because Bohol needs power and even one additional megawatt is essential,” said Rollon, who hails from the island-town of Pres. Garcia which, like Danao, belongs to the Second District.

But proper processes, he said, must have been observed, most critically in being transparent in disclosing the volume or extent of the water to be impounded.

Considering the geological condition of the project site, Rollon asked, “What if the dam breaks? Or what if the dam had collapsed during the strong earthquake in 2013 granting that it was already built by then?

He said the great volume of dam water would have dropped and flooded over a vast area in Inabanga, destroying an unthinkable number of lives and properties.

The local government unit of Inabanga was not even consulted, Rollon said.

Mayor Josephine Socorro Jumamoy had raised this point in her privilege speech while she then seated in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan as a Second District board member.

Accordingly, the ultimate end of the hydro-power and multi-use dam project is to bring the water of Bohol, including those from the tributaries to the Inabanga river, to Cebu.

Rollon identified the other “failures” of the Cantakoy proposal when it comes to the terms of compliance to the standards of the EIA process.

These include the “insufficient delineation of primary impact area and quantification of biophysical impact, and insufficient/unacceptable identification of risks downstream of the dam site.”

MEETINGS TO RESOLVE ISSUES

Rollon said they already went through several meetings and workshops to resolve the issues and, in their last, the proponents availed of the services of an environmental consulting firm.

It will be “truly grossly unfair” to accuse falsely the Boholanos in the UP Advisory Council and the administration of Chatto of having allegedly opposed the project when actually not, Rollon said.

Also during their last meeting, it was their understanding that the proponent would be reducing further the capacity to 3 megawatts, subject to impact vis-à-vis viability considerations.

The province is on the right track, therefore, in constructing an inland large-scale power generation facility because Bohol’s present baseload requirement alone is already about 80 megawatts, Rollon said.

Rollon said they have been awaiting the result of the study which was presumably done already quite a time now by the consultancy firm hired by the Cantakoy project proponents.

“If the failures or mistakes were mere flaws minus ill intention, then we must be honest and earnest to make corrections for environmental and safety standards and best implementation,” Rollon said. (VenC.Arigo)

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