The Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) has denied the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) application of Dennis Uy-led Udenna Water Integrated, Inc. for its proposed Lumbo Spring Bulk Water Supply Project in Dolores, Quezon, due to “mounting opposition from various stakeholders in the area.”
In a letter to Tiaong, Quezon Mayor Ramon Preza, the Regional Director of DENR-EMB’s CALABRZON Regional Office, Dir. Noemi Paranada, confirmed that the Udenna Water does not have a valid ECC for the project after the agency denied their application last November 2021.
The DENR-EMB’s letter was a response to Mayor Preza’s call upon the DENR to restrain
the ongoing implementation of the project despite the lack of an ECC and the lack of any public consultations with the affected downstream users.
“We have been made aware that no ECC has been issued prior to any of their construction activities. We believe that this project poses an imminent environmental threat not only to the communities within the immediate vicinity of the project, but also to our municipality downstream,” said Mayor Preza in his letter to the DENR-EMB.
Preza stressed that before any resource extractive activity is undertaken, there must be a public consultation wherein all stakeholders are given the opportunity to discuss their concerns on the project. “With the proposed extraction of water from Lumbo Spring, our farmers are gravely concerned about how this will negatively impact their livelihoods and food production in the region,” he added.
Under P.D. 1586, it is unlawful to operate and implement any environmentally critical projects or in any environmentally critical areas without first securing an ECC. The Lumbo spring is considered an environmentally critical area.
In November of 2020, the San Pablo City Water District (SPCWD) in Laguna and the Dolores Water District (DWD) in Quezon jointly issued a Notice of Award for the P103 Million Lumbo Spring Bulk Water Supply Project to a consortium led by Udenna Water Integrated, Inc. through a public-private partnership scheme. The Udenn aconsortium is responsible for the construction of a facility to draw about 12 million liters of water daily from Lumbo Spring, which will mostly be diverted and sold to users from San Pablo, Laguna.
Opposition to the water project has been mounting, as various sectors, including the office of Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), and concerned civic organizations have warned of the threats the project poses to the area’s water supply, irrigation, livelihood and food security – especially since Lumbo Spring contributes to the irrigation of over 1000 hectares of rice land in the area. Even the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Quezon Province has issued a resolution demanding SPCWD and DWD to suspend the implementation of the project.
The Mamamayan Para sa Kapakanan ng Kalikasan ng Bukal ng Lumbo or Mapakalikasan, consisting of farmers and residents affected by the project, earlier called on local government officials as well as the DENR to look into the absence of an ECC for the Lumbo Spring water project, stating that any project in the Philippines that may pose an environmental risk or impact is required to secure an ECC from the DENR-EMB.
Mapakalikasan noted that beginning 2021, the SPCWD, DWD and their contractors Udenna Water and Optimus Engineering and Construction, had already been conducting construction and clearing activities even without applying for an ECC or the necessary local government permits; and without consultation with the downstream stakeholders such as farmers and irrigators who will be most affected by this project. “This constitutes a clear violation of Philippine regulatory and environmental laws,” the group stressed.
NIA also released a position paper on behalf of its farmer beneficiaries, opposing the completion of the Lumbo Spring Bulk Water Supply Project given the already significant decline in water discharge which is expected to worsen due to the Lumbo water extraction.
“There is a clear threat of irrigation water shortage due to the increasing number of water users both for domestic and agricultural use. The SPCWD-DWD proposed water project and the continuous decrease of water discharge will jeopardize the government’s thrust towards food security and will decrease farmers’ potential income,” the NIA paper said.
Senator and vice presidential aspirant Pangilinan already filed a Senate resolution in November 2021 expressing support for the local farmers, as well as for the positions taken by NIA, and the local governments of Dolores and Tiaong against the water project
Pangilinan, who is a former food security chief and previously chaired the Senate committee on agriculture, echoed the sentiments of the groups, particularly mentioning the dilemma that local farmers would face in case the project pushes through.