The tribal leaders blamed the drying up on the American operator of the $600-million Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project run by the Berkshire-Hathaway Energy.
Rocky Valderama Jr., a member of the Board of Directors of the Confederation of Bugkalots in Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, accused the California Energy Casecnan Water and Energy Company Inc. of allegedly diverting huge volumes of water from the Casecnan river causing it to dry up that affects Bugkalot families who rely on fishing for their livelihood.
“The Casecnan river has dried up. What remains is only a few volume of water downstream,” Valderama said.
He said the sudden loss of water in the Casecnan river was because CECWECI made use of it, violating an agreement it entered into with the National Irrigation Administration before the dam was constructed.
It was agreed upon that the CECWECI would only utilize 1.6% of the 49 billion cubic meters of water from the river.
“Instead of using just 1.6% of the water, the CECWECI utilized the full 49 billion cubic meters which emptied the river,” Valderama said.
CECWECI is a subsidiary of the Mid-American Energy Company, which developed the built-operate-transfer component of the CMIPP in 1995, involving a 26-kilometer underground transbasin tunnel that diverts water from the Taang and Casecnan rivers in Nueva Vizcaya to the Pantabangan dam in Nueva Ecija.
Completed in December 2001, the BoT component guarantees an annual inflow of 800 million cubic meters of water to Pantabangan dam, irrigating an additional 35,000 hectares on top of the 102,000 hectares serviced by the dam.
Valderama said because no water is flowing in the Casecnan river, this destroyed the natural habitat of “ludong,” a fish specie which is the primary source of livelihood by the tribal families.
Ludong sells at 4,000 peso to 5,000 peso a kilo.
Valderama said with the Casecnan river no longer running with aquatic life, Bugkalot fishermen in the nine barangays of Nagti-punan in Quirino and Bgy. Pelaway, Alfonso Castaneda in Nueva Vizcaya have stopped fishing.
He said even people from Aurora have been affected by the river’s drying up.
“Before, we have fish festivals during summer but now, we no longer have any,” he said.
Aside from the loss of livelihood, people who used to cross the river could no longer travel by bancas to their place of destination.
Nueva Vizcaya residents earlier filed a protest against CECWECI.