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Bangui Trip Informs Sagada and Besao Elders

PRESS RELEASE- As part of the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process, an information gathering trip to the Northwind Bangui Bay  took place last March 17-18, 2013. The trip aimed to familiarise the FPIC team and the elders of Besao and Sagada with wind farms as well as experiencing wind power in practice.

Michael Doyog, an elder from Fidelisan Sagada, mentioned that …. “when one leans on the wind turbine, you can hear the sound it emits but when you stand away, the sound disappears”. James Gaongen, an elder from Demang, Sagada, added…. “I don’t hear the wind turbine, only the waves of the sea, the breeze from the mountains and the rustling leaves and the wind blowing through the trees”. Doyog also said…. “I couldn’t feel any vibrations from the turbine”.

Gaongen explained that windmills were not new to the area. There were similar things in Sagada before which the elders call the ‘guliweng’. They were made of G.I. sheets and turned just like a windmill atop the Dap-ays. In the old days Sagada elders would celebrate the ‘guliweng.’

During a discussion with Niels Jacobsen, President and CEO of Northwind Power Development Corp, lots of questions were raised by the Besao and Sagada elders which were all carefully answered with detailed explanations.

Rover Sumingwa, an elder from Agawa, Besao, was concerned about the wind turbines and their effect on water supply……. “With the turbines, there are doubts about the safety of the water supply. In our place, the proposed turbine site, is the source of water for many villages and the watersheds must be protected” Sumingwa expressed.

Jacobsen explained ….. “There’s absolutely no threat to water supply from wind turbines. Think about it for a minute; you can see that the turbine isn’t connected to water. It’s not consuming water or obstructing the flow. Erecting turbines in the mountains is the same thing. Zero impact on water supply. The turbines are not connected to the water supply at all”.

Jacobsen further stressed. “The turbines aren’t sucking out water or for that matter blocking the ground water. So if you’re asking me, that shouldn’t be a concern”.

He reiterated that the turbines do not affect the water table and that it’s just like building a house on top of a mountain.

Engineer Rufino Bomas-ang, non-executive Chairman of PhilCarbon and a native of Besao understood and supported the people’s concerns about protecting and preserving watersheds. “It’s so important and hopefully, with the presence of PhilCarbon, we can work with the community to plant more ‘sakti’ to hold water. We are here to work with the community” Bomas-ang emphasized.

Bomas-ang went on to suggest that when the memorandum of agreement is ready to be drafted, it could include fences to protect the watershed areas and support for schools to become Centers for Renewable Energy and Environmental Protection. He further stressed that putting up a wind farm atop the Pilao-Langsayan Ridge as a substitute for fossil fuels would make a significant contribution to environmental sustainability in the area. At the same time solid-waste management projects, not just in Pilao but in Sagada and Besao, could be started. “For these exciting initiatives, we need your help and we can work together”.

Jacobsen explained that wind farms in mountains pose a different challenge to the wind farm the elders had just seen along the seashore. “ Most wind farms in the world are on mountain ridges to get as much power from the wind as possible”.

Vic Allan Gaces, Barangay Chairman of Baruyen, Bangui stressed that there is no radiation from the windmills. He also said the windmills had put Baruyen on the map and the local economy had expanded, particularly souvenir shops with  almost 50 percent of the souvenirs being made in the barangay.

Jerome Fabi, Municipal Tourism Officer of Bangui attested to how the economy of the town had boomed and had helped the people living nearby. He said jokingly “ in fact, if it were up to us, we don’t want other windfarm to be built elsewhere, so people will just come to Bangui as it is a big tourism attraction and income generation for us here.”

Gaces stressed that there are no known problems between the animals, crops and wind farms.

“Makita yu met dagiti billit apo, dagiti tumatayab, nu kuma adda ti epekto na apo, awan kuma ti billit nga agtatayab. Kasta met iti baybay. Dagiti kunkunada nga disturbance iti baybay, awan ti disturbance. Adda dagiti payao ijay tengngan ti baybay. Agyan dagiti ikan idjayen, han da nga umay iti igid ti baybay. Ken seasonal laeng iti ikan”.  Gaces further stressed.

James Gaongen, Sagada elder said ….. “Awan met gayyam ti kasla nga epekto na iti mulmula nga dagitoy. Awan met ti asiti unnu gasolina na dagitoy nu di ket angin met ti mangpa-anandar.”

An elder of Kin-iway, Besao, who wished his name withheld, wondered. “Adda metlang met ti balbalay gayam ken mabalin ag-garden idtoy ayan ti wind farm. Awan pay mangngeg ko nga uni ti turbina. Apay ayan na gayam ti kunkunada nga madi nga epekto na dagitoy wind mill?”

Ruth Yu-Owen, PhilCarbon President, encouraged the elders to keep an open mind and to work with them to generate sustainable communities in Sagada and Besao.

Gaongen supported Yu- Owen’s call to keep an open mind. He stressed in the local dialect that people often see the same thing in different ways and what is needed is clarification and more information. According to Gaongen, the elders have now experienced wind farms first hand and will be able to give a true and accurate picture to the people back home.

“Uray siyak. Hanak kayat nga aglanglangsot. Hanak kayat nga ilanglangsotan ti anak ko. Hanak kayat nga ilanglangsotan ti apok. Diyay ustu nga nakitak nga nasayaat, isu ti maibagak iti anak ko ken jay apok”. Gaongen further stressed.

Yu-Owen explained to the elders “You will be producing the cleanest source of power in the country, you will be hosting this and will become respected nationally”.

Engineer Dino Tiatco, Northwind Plant Manager, stressed…… “power from wind farms is always a better alternative than today’s other technologies. I hope you’ll support the Sagada Besao project. Your support will not only benefit the province but the effect will be worldwide. You will be mitigating the deterioration of our environment and at the end of the day it will be our children and our children’s children who will reap the ultimate benefits.”

On the way home from Bangui, Besao elders as well as those of Sagada, talked among themselves on how they could help in informing and educating their families, relatives, neighbors and friends concerning what they have experienced, learned and seen first-hand.

Christian is a Marketing Communications practitioner living and working in Quezon City. He is an Igorot by blood, from the peace-loving Kankanaey tribe of Mountain Province in Sagada. To get in touch, please shoot an email to [email protected]

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