BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: A group of indigenous people belonging to the Bugkalot tribe has expressed disgust over the drying up of their river sanctuary casued by what they call the “irresponsible” operation of an American water and energy firm.
The Bugkalot tribe accuses the California Energy (CalEnergy) Casecnan Multi-Purpose Irrigation and Power Project (CMIPP) of siphoning 100 percent of the water from Casecnan River.
Casecnan River runs through the municipalities of Alfonso Castañeda, Dupax del Norte and Dupax Del Sur in Nueva Vizcaya and serves as the main source of irrigation water for the CMIPP operation owned and operated by CalEnergy.
“We are so disgusted with this irresponsible act by this American firm drying up our rivers abounding with fish resources which is our main source of living. We are calling on government agencies to intervene so that the flow of water in the Casecnan River is restored for our sustenance,” Bugkalot tribe federation chieftain Rosario Camma said.
Alfonso Castañeda town hosts the giant $580-million CMIPP, a hydroelectric facility composed of a power plant and two impounding dams connected by a pair of 26-kilometer tunnels from Alfonso Castañeda’s Casecnan and Taan Rivers to Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija.
The project was constructed during then Pres. Fidel Ramos administration under the build-operate-transfer scheme which diverts irrigation waters from Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces. It now produces 100 megawatts of power for the Luzon grid and irrigates some 300,000 hectares of farmlands in Central Luzon and parts of Pangasinan.
Bugkalot have been demanding for the retention of at least 10 percent of the water supply in the Casecnan River so they could continue to benefit from its rich fish resources.
“Since time immemorial, we have been dependent on the Casecnan River for our livelihood. It is where we fish the precious ludong fish [Cestraeus plicatilis] and other fish species but now they are gone. We are afraid ludong is now extinct because our rivers have dried-up,” Camma said.
They said they were assured during the start of the CMIPP construction in 1995 that their livelihood which comes basically from the Casecnan River will not be adversely affected.
In the mid-2000, a dengue epidemic has been declared in the primary Barangays of Alfonso Castaneda and neighboring town of Dupax del Sur caused by the drying-up of the Casecnan River.