By Grace Cantal-Albasin
PHILIPPINES Inquirer.net - Mindanao Bureau Oct. 20, 2008
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines -- The construction of a government-backed, privately-led bio-ethanol project in the villages of Bayanga and Mambuaya here could kill the Cagayan De Oro River, an environmental conservation group warned on Saturday. Because of this, the Kagay-an Watershed Alliance (Kawal) vowed to oppose the P2.4 billion project that Alsons Consolidated Resources (ACR) plans to build on a 17-hectare area shared by the two villages.
Kawal said the city's main river system, where a 12-kilometer white-water rafting course is also found, runs through the two villages.
In a statement, Kawal said it would resort to civil disobedience if the project pushes through. Councilor Ian Acenas, chair of the Sangguniang Panlungsod's environment committee, told the Inquirer that ACR has assured the city government that it will use a state-of-the-art water treatment facility to safeguard the environment and protect the communities around the plant.
He said public hearings in the two villages “showed a positive turnout as residents welcomed the project."
But Kawal said ACR could not possibly control contamination because it will use cassava, which has natural cyanide contents, in its production of bio-ethanol.
Mario Jose Baile, ACR business development manager, admitted they will use cassava in the production of bio-ethanol.
But Baile clarified that the plant will only process dried cassava. He said dried cassava chips do not contain cyanide anymore.
Even then, Baile said they will still treat their waste water to ensure that no contaminant will find its way to the river.
"The first stage of water treatment will be treating the water effluent to produce methane that can supplement the fuel of the boiler which will help in the reduction of carbon emission," he said. "If there is a possibility of disposal, we assure the public that we will follow the highest standards of government regulation to prevent harming the environment," Baile said.
Maria Luisa Rubic, chair of the Southwest Watershed Alliance, told the Inquirer that ACR should have gone to an industrial area and not to the two barangays, which are part of the city's tourism map.
"Alsons should have gone there (in Misamis Oriental) and not to this agri-farm ecotourism land, where tourism is already flourishing and the protection of the environment is highly needed to sustain it," Rubic said