Faulting the last administration for the failure of the controversial Cantakoy hydro-electric powerplant (HPP) project in Danao-Inabanga area to proceed is wrong, deceptive and misleading, official records would show.
After the late Gov. Erico Amuentado, who was among those behind the Cantakoy HPP venture, capitol still supported the project. But not until Inabanga and Danao officials themselves questioned the project’s safety and environmental and social preparations, which were either bypassed or omitted.
The Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Inabanga manifested in two resolutions in 2012 the officials’ and people’s concerns of possible social and environmental impacts of the then on-going project construction.
Then-Mayor Jono Jumamoy assailed in a written discussion the “lack of transparency and failure to consider the rights of all stakeholders that would be affected by the project, not only by the project proponent (Sta. Clara Corp. and then Quad River Energy Corp.), but also the permitting government agencies.”
In 12 pages, the document is entitled the “Environmental and Social Concerns for the Cantakoy HPP Project: Apparent Lack of Consideration in the Project’s Environmental Impact Assessment and DOE Hydropower Service Contract.”
The paper was presented and submitted to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), Department of Environment and natural resources and other agencies in 2012, during which the provincial the board conducted inquiries amid LGU complaints.
Originally, the Cantakoy HPP was intended to generate 5.2 megawatts (MW), with a dam structure of only 30 meters high and an impoundment/backwater area of 20 million cubic meters capacity or less.
In 2009, Sta. Clara was issued Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the project in the category of Non-Environmentally Critical Project (Non-ECP) and just based on Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) Report.
Two years later in 2011, it was amended because of the increases in the generation capacity to 8mw and dam height to 40 meters.
Meanwhile, the Quad River Energy Corp. (QREC), an Ayala subsidiary, requested a change of project ownership, which was approved by the Department of Energy (DOE).
In 2012, the “new proponent/owner,” QREC, presented the same project to the Provincial Development Council (PDC) but already with major changes/revisions—dam height to 62 meters and backwater impoundment with a capacity of already over 49.4 million cubic meters or nearly 50 million cubic meters.
In the Inabanga LGU position paper, the mayor asserted that the project type would now be Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), not plain IEE, since the reservoir flooded area or water storage capacity exceeds the parameter of not more than 20 million cubic meters.
While the generation capacity would stay at 8mw, the proposed water impounding area was increased by almost three times of what was approved in the ECC amendment—from 40 hectares to 111.7 hectares, and so did with the dam height from 40 meters to 62 meters.
According to then Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Nestor Canda, several violations to the ECC had already been committed.
In a Sta. Clara presentation just based on the IEE Report or IEER, barangay Cabatuan in Danao would be the only area in the construction of the Cantakoy HPP.
But the Inabanga LGU refuted in its paper discussion by the mayor that while most of the facilities are located in Cabatuan, the dam itself would be “anchored” in barangay Sua, Inabanga on the other side.
The reservoir/impoundment area would cover Sua and barangay San Jose, also in Inabanga, and Cabatuan and barangays Carbon and Nahid in Danao as “parts of this barangay will be submerged.”
The project proponent claimed that the dam and rise of water level due to the structure will not affect the people, and that nobody owns the land in the project site.
This was refuted by the LGU in the mayor’s written discussion: “It’s not only housing that will be affected, but farmlands and tree plantations (as noted in the CENRO certifications), sources of food and people’s livelihood. Water quality would cause ecosystem imbalances that would influence the deterioration of the quality of life of both Inabanga and Danao communities.”
The project proponent also claimed that the National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP) certified that no portion of any ancestral domain will be affected by the dam construction and areas to be submerged.
This was also refuted as just “general statement” having “no factual basis.”
“An inventory of lands affected by the project should have been undertaken. Assessors and cadastral survey maps overlaid with the areas that will be flooded will provide a reference on the ownership of these areas. With the statement that nobody owns the lands, then it is still public land and Sta. Clara or QREC, in the absence of any tenurial instrument, has no legal right to develop the Cantakoy HPP.”
In the SP inquiry on May 16, 2012, Board Member Romulo Cepedoza, who is from Danao, asked the Danao SB secretary, identified as Ms. Anunciado, if the LGU received a copy of the
ECC since it is one of the conditions of the ECC.
Anunciado said the SB had “no copy” up to that time, although she added that she “could not speak on behalf of the whole LGU.”
But she confirmed that the SB had passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to avail of P15 million loans as LGU’s equity to the Cantakoy project.
It was further known that Sta. Clara president is the father of the then-mayor of Danao, Tomas Gonzaga, who is now dead. The mayor was a closest to the Aumentado administration.
A public fund worth about P4.5 million was coursed through the Second Engineering District Office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the access road to the dam site.
Then Board Member Dionisio Balite was so “irked” by the public fund spending for a private project since, during inquiries, no one from the DPWH would even tell who was the official proposing it.
In another SP inquiry, Boholano scientists and experts in the University of the Philippines (UP) forewarned of possible major disaster should the Cantakoy project push through without its proponents heeding to fully comply with the critical requirements.
According to the Inabanga paper, public scoping and consultation had not even been done. Even the LGU was bypassed.
Dr. Carlos Arcilla, director of the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS) of the UP College of Sciences said the project must have a full EIA or Environmental Impact Assessment since it has an impoundment capacity of P50 million cubic meters from just 20 million cubic meters or less.
The area is limestone and there are karst or cavern occurrences in limestone which, over a geologic time could dissolve or melt, the geological scientist said.
In Manila, the expert said, the proposed Wawa river dam was aborted because of the danger of constructing it in the limestone area.
He noted that the proposed elevation of the dam was heightened to 62 meters, about 200 feet, equivalent to the height of a 20-story building.
The ECC of the project was just based on the EEI (Initial Environmental Examination) Report precisely because this category does not require geologic assessment, Arcilla further noted.
Building a massive structure like a dam across the site with potential areas of karst and there is no mention at all in the IEE Report of what effects will be on these areas, “this to me is a severe the problem,” he said in the inquiry attended by DENR people.
Arcilla said “it’s upon my consent to tell you that it is dangerous to build a dam without checking the geology of the place that has limestone.”
He warned that if the project is pursued, “as director of the NIGS, I will go and write the President of the Philippines that this should not be allowed because we are the experts on this. I mean, honestly.”
He further cautioned that the “projected dam height, flooding area and the area potentially affected by the catastrophic dam failure need to be vetted carefully.”
There is no problem if the area is not of limestone, according to Arcilla, but having no study done and ECC based only on the IEE are a “serious defect.”
The then Chatto administration agreed that despite its limited generation, the project can contribute to the power requirement of the province.
But the UP experts, not just Arcilla, also agreed that having a more transparent and rigorous vetting through a full-scale EIA, not mere IEE, is the best way that safety and proper consultation with potentially affected communities can be achieved.
Arcilla challenged any of the proponents of the project to “put his house beside the dam.”
Another Boholano at UP, Dr. Rene Rolllon, director of the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, said they stand by their recommendation to revoke the ECC and require a full
EIA to address all critical concerns. The environmental impact of the project will also be determined if a full Environmental Impact
Statement is (EIS) is made, said Rollon who is an expert in environmental impact assessment for over 20 years.
Rollon said the Cantakoy project ECC was “actually erroneous” and “on wrong basis.”
The two experts’ manifestation was also contained in their official letter to the SP signed by other Boholano UP professors, including former UP Pres. Jose Abueva, Dr. Ramon Clarete, and Dr. Ernesto Pernia, now the NEDA secretary of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, and Atty. Cimafranca.
Then Board Member Josephine Socorro Jumamoy supported the expert recommendation to the DENR Central Office to revoke or cancel the ECC. Jumamoy is now the mayor of Inabanga.
The construction activities at the project site have since been suspended.
Rollon put it on record that they welcome hydroelectric power facilities as they are closer to the ways of generating renewable energy, but minus “misclassification.”
As a member of the Bohol UP Advisory Council, Arcilla said addressing the concerns surrounding the environmentally-critical project so that full compliance to requirements can be met was “one of the wisest things that (then) Gov. Chatto made.”
The dam site is just about five kilometers from the fault line of the great earthquake that devastated Bohol in 2013, a year after the SP inquiry series on the controversial project.
Former Board Member Gerry Garcia of the Second District, where Inabanga and Danao belong, said in a press statement that “stopping” the Cantakoy project was a “divine intervention.
According to him, Inabanga and low-lying towns like Clarin and Buenavista would have been “washed out” because had the dam been completed and its vast impoundment full prior to the strong tremor, the structures would have collapsed.
Waters in the vast impoundment would be released into the Inabanga river, causing flashflood to the localities below Danao, Garcia said.
He said it would have been also a great loss of investment since the power plant was not designed to withstand a seismic load base of 7.2 magnitudes while being built in a geologically-sensitive area.
The proponents were given all the chance to comply, but they rather stopped the project instead of complying. The project “owners,” as well as “Rep. Aris Aumentado, should be very thankful to the SP,” the former board member said.
In his press release last week, Aumentado created a wrong impression that the previous administration stopped the project.