Green Groups Blame Privatization of Natural Resources as Real Cause of Water and Energy Crises

Press Release
3 March 2010

Indigenous peoples, scientists and environmental activists demand the cancellation of water permits of large-scale mining corporations and foreign energy operators in the country in a protest action in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The action was timed during the 15th anniversary of the passing of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the increasing tensions and impacts of the El Nino, environmental destruction, water and energy crises currently besetting the nation.

“The cancellation of water permits of private and foreign mining companies is a step forward in the proper management and efficient utilization of our water resources. Instead of being distributed to the majority of households, agricultural lands and Filipinos, most of our water resources are allocated by the government to private corporations, particularly energy and mining companies,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

Mr. Bautista also remarked, “Mining corporations are automatically given water rights under the mining liberalization policy of the government. Mining companies can use any water resources inside their mining concession area for their operations. In Surigao del Norte, one of the mining capitals in the country, mining companies such as Surigao Consolidated Mining Co., Pacific Nickel Phil Inc., and Manila Mining Corp., control the water supply of major rivers in the province. While in Bukidnon province, more than of the 98% water allocated from surface water are controlled and being used by few power corporations.”

Kalikasan PNE cited the 2007 water permits issued by the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) totaled to 19,695 with a total volume of 60,164,70.752 liter per second (lps) from surface and underground water resources. The power sector takes up much of the water, with a volume of 3,432,133.193 lps or 57% of the total volume granted to all the water permit holders, while other sectors receive much less such as irrigation (35%) and domestic (3%).

The power sector gets the lion’s share of the volume of water allocated by the government but it only has 235 water permit grantees or just 1% of the total number of grantees. On the other hand, irrigation has the biggest number of grantees 10,329 (52%), followed by domestic 6,447 (33%), industrial 1,403, fisheries 482, commercial 343.

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“The policy of the Arroyo government of privatizing our natural resources such as minerals and water resulted in the foreign control, poor management and depletion of these resources. Take for example the case of Mindanao, there so much energy and water resources but the region is reeling from supposedly lack of water and electricity supply,” Mr. Bautista added.

AGHAM chairperson Dr. Giovanni Tapang cautioned the National Grid Corporation (NGCP) in blaming the El Niño phenomenon as the cause of the supposed critical power supply situation in Mindanao.

The Arroyo government through the Department of Energy (DoE) and the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), the private operator of the country’s transmission network, blame low water level in Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric power plants for the Mindanao energy shortage.

“The El Nino phenomenon does not automatically mean drought for all places in the Philippines. In fact, according to records of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Mindanao in general has been experiencing normal to above normal rainfall up to January 2010. The receding water levels in Agus could be due to siltation and less from the El Nino,” Dr. Tapang explained.

According to PAGASA, up to January 2007 Mindanao experienced above normal rainfall. In the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Region X rainfall amount were 81% to 160% of the normal condition. All of the large hydroelectric dams in Mindanao namely Agus II, Agus II, Agus IV, Agus V, Agus VI, Agus VII and Pulangi IV dams are located in ARMM and Region X.

“The El Nino phenomenon has been used by government officials to justify different things: from emergency power to construction of new dams. The public should be wary of these pronouncements. The El Nino is a quasi-periodic– recurring– phenomenon. Instead of using it as scapegoat, the government should have prepared for this. It had several years to do it and dreaming of emergency powers cannot correct decades-long mistakes of privatization and liberalization of our natural resources,” Dr. Tapang said.

“While it is true that the country is in the midst of a water shortage, this is mainly due to the government’s misappropriation and mismanagement of our resources that favor the big businesses and corporation while leaving the majority of the people begging for this precious and basic resource,” ended Mr. Bautista.

Clemente Bautista Jr., National Coordinator, Kalikasan-PNE
Giovanni Tapang, Chairperson, AGHAM

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