Tribes reject large dams in Balbalan and Pinukpuk, Kalinga

By Rod Asurin

TABUK CITY–Six tribes in upper Kalinga province declared opposition to large dam projects in two of the country’s cleanest bodies of water, the Saltan and Cal-oan (Mabaca) rivers.

Around 200 representatives from the Salegseg, Poswoy, Dao-angan, Ab-aba-an and Mabaca tribes in Balbalan town and the Limos tribe in Pinukpuk gathered last August 27 in an assembly to declare their rejection of additional hydro-electric projects in the area.

SUMKADD (Rise and resist): Representatives of five tribes in upper Kalinga province gather in an assembly to oppose three more hydropower dams in their sacred rivers. (Supplied photo)

The tribes said the proposed projects threaten their sources of livelihood and are destructive of the environment.

Australian-owned JBD Water Power Inc. (JWPI) is contracted by the Department of Energy to construct large dam projects along the Saltan and the Cal-oan rivers.

The Saltan drains the Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park, one of the country’s largest protected areas and a sanctuary to a large number of endemic plants and animals.

Cal-oan is also known in the area as the Mabaca River after the Mabaca Tribe that owns the waterway.

JWPI projects in the province are the 49 megawatt Saltan D, 45 megawatt Saltan E, and 40 megawatt Mabaca River hydropower projects it claims are for the empowerment of the people of the province, all in the pre-development stage still.

The tribes said they were told by JWPI in consultative assemblies the dams would be as high as 50 meters but the company has yet to fully disclose complete project designs for their approval.

Assembly representatives sign the unity statement last August 27 against more dam projects in Kalinga province. (Supplied photo)

In a unity statement, the tribes said, “We believe that these hydro-power projects pose great destruction to our communities. It destroys our land, environment, source of livelihood and communities’ unity.”

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Earlier, the Pinukpuk municipal council passed Resolution No. 22, series of 2022, opposing Saltan E’s construction, stating the project will cause physical and material damage to residents, including economic and environmental loss.

“This opposition is meant to protect the lives and properties of the individuals and the community from potential hazards, and to prevent possible disaster or tragedy,” the resolution reads. #