Years before, the winds in Sagada gave off the sound of rustling pine needles, the wings and songs of birds, and the fresh smell of the forest. Hardly did anyone think that soon enough, the wind would bring with itself the metallic sound of the spinning turbines of a wind farm.
Hardly anyone thought that it would bring the sound of heavy machinery drilling and digging, the sound of the earth being savaged in the name of progress, the sound of trees falling, and the stench of chemicals spilling. Hardly anyone, except for PhilCarbon president Ruth Yu-Owen and her supporters. PhilCarbon and the SagadaBesao Windmill Corporation drew up plans to build windmills on a windy ridge in the boundary of Sagada and Besao in Mountain Province. The proposed wind farm would have up to 15 wind turbines along the PilaoLangsayan Ridge. Each turbine would produce 600 kilowatts, totalling 15 megawatts of electricity. Mountain Province consumes only five to six megawatts. One of the selling points is to sell the excess nine to ten megawatts produced by the wind farm to electricity grids in other places in Luzon.
One process that any development project undertakes is an Environment Impact Assessment by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In addition, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) provides that projects like the wind farm should include an assessment of how it will affect the indigenous people and natural resources in those areas. However, projects aiming towards so-called development have hardly ever taken into account the rights, livelihood, and culture of indigenous communities.
The windmill turbines were designed to be 80 feet tall, with rotor blades of 40 meters long. These turbines will be built near sources of water that will be inevitably and negatively affected by construction activities. The rotor blades will destroy the surrounding trees. The target project area also serves as a pastureland therefore will disturb the livestocks. Equally, the project will disrupt the routes of migratory birds. Imagine the mountains.
Imagine the pine trees. Imagine the monstrous metal turbines, starkly white and lifeless against the backdrop of the forest green.
PhilCarbon and its proponents promised that the affected municipalities would divide between themselves a royalty of one centavo for every kilowatt the wind farm produces. A fraction of a centavo per kilowatt, in exchange for the destruction of the land and its resources, and for the disruption of the natural course of living things that reside in the area. Obviously, the generosity of PhilCarbon knows no bounds—except for the bounds of profit.
Meanwhile, in Sabangan, the Chico River was despoiled by the construction of Hedcor’s facilities. Chico River has been the site of development and military aggression for years—it calls to mind the martyrdom of Macli-ing Dulag, who was murdered in his own home for the sake of “progress”. Hedcor is building a “mini” hydro power plant in Barangays Napua and Namatec. Testimonies from affected communities say that efforts of Hedcor to prevent damage to the river have been ineffective. They also speak about the deceptive moves of Hedcor. Instead of a mini hydro power plant that produces only 14 megawatts, Hedcor is actually building a power plant that would produces a total of 55 megawatts—far from the 14 megawatts they first claimed to build.
There are numerous renewable energy plant applications in Mountain Province alone. BIMAKA is planning on building a series of six mini hydro projects along the Balas-iyan river in Besao. All in all, there are 11 hydro-electric projects outlined in Mountain Province. The MainitSadanga geothermal project of the PRCMagma Energy Resources Corp., which is a partnership with Chevron expected to generate 80MW will be affecting a wide span of land in Bontoc and Sadanga of Mountain Province. Leaders of indigenous women’s organizations in Mountain Province say that energy projects are needed for other investments in the province especially mining and tourism.
Imagine a map of Mountain Province littered with markers for mining and renewable energy applications.
With destructive mining and renewable energy applications come militarization, harassment, and various other human rights violations. In Sagada, when the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) assembly held for the indigenous communities affected by PhilCarbon’s windpower project was conducted, the 54th IB under Colonel Martinez also had their operations. In Tocucan, indigenous leaders that opposed the mini hydro power plant project were harassed by members of the CAFGU1, a paramilitary group.
PhilCarbon also disseminated misleading information regarding the schedule and nature of the FPIC assemblies. Personnel of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) who are mandated to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples, were party to PhilCarbon’s deception and manipulation of the FPIC process.
Despite all this, the affected communities especially the women, took action to uphold their rights and to protect the natural environment of their homeland. A 100-meter tall anemometer tower that tests wind speeds was built by PhilCarbon in preparation for the wind farm project in Sagada. On June 5, 2013, the structure that costs Php 1.5 million was felled by anonymous members of the protesting communities.
All over the communities affected by energy projects, the women actively participated in study meetings on issues regarding these projects, and made sure to attend every assembly called by the NCIP in order to voice their opposition to the destructive projects. In Tocucan, the women conducted a petition signing against the hydro project, and attended consultations in order to personally voice out their protests. The necessity to act and prevent the corporate energy projects is a demonstration of how women value life and the source of life which is the land. For them, it is upholding the dignity of women and peoples to respect and uphold life of present and future generations. Young women leaders say that violence against women is addressed in their
empowering participation to these struggles. The leadership they develop earn the respect of their communities. It raises their profile as women.
Now, imagine the struggle of the communities affected by the megadam project along Chico River during the Marcos dictatorship. Imagine the women—mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters—who confronted troops of soldiers during that struggle. Peoples of the Cordillera have shown, time and again, that we will stand together in order to protect our land, life, and resources.