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Ilocos Norte townsfolk slam ‘intrusive’ transmission lines

LAOAG CITY—Residents in Bangui town, Ilocos Norte province, are protesting the installation of transmission lines across their property from a wind farm, saying it was done without their consent.

The 69-kilometer transmission lines will allow electricity generated by the 81-megawatt wind farm of North Luzon Renewable Energy Corp. (NLREC) in Pagudpud town to be channeled to the Luzon grid through Laoag City. NLREC is a joint venture of AC Energy Holdings Inc., UPC Renewables and Philippine Investment Alliance for Infrastructure.

NLREC began constructing the first phase of the project in September in Caparispisan and Balaoi villages, which aims to double the production of the 32 wind turbines of the Bangui wind power plant, also owned by Ayala Corp.

Endorsed by the Department of Energy, the NLREC wind project was supposed to be online in June but has been delayed by accessibility issues.

Several households in Malasin, Abaca and Dadaor in Bangui have complained that the transmission lines violated their property rights and endangered their families.

“We are helpless and in danger. The transmission line flies over our house and my son no longer wants to stay indoors for fear of the high voltage power line once it is connected to the grid,” said Renel Ancheta, a fisherman whose house stands near NLREC’s Tower 61.

Ancheta said his family would have relocated had they been properly informed about the project. He claimed that village officials tried to make him sign a document acknowledging NLREC’s right of way through his land but he refused because the indemnification fee was not even enough to pay for the foundation post of a new house.

No NLREC officials were available to clarify the protests but lawyer Erme Labayog, provincial legal officer and acting provincial assessor, said the transmission line project had complied with safety and health standards, as well as rules prescribed by building and electricity regulators.

NLREC president Wilfredo Peñaflor assured the 18 families residing in Barangay (village) Malasin that they should not fear the transmission lines, saying these were designed to withstand a typhoon with winds of over 270 kilometers per hour.

“With respect to the electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure or the so-called radiation, we wish to clarify that the EMF produced by the transmission lines with the required distances is well below the recommended long-term exposure levels prescribed by the International Commission on Nonionizing Radiation Protection and adopted by the Department of Health,” he said in an Oct. 29 letter to the families.

NLREC, however, may face a lawsuit from US-based Bienvenida Sevilleja, according to lawyer Golda Arquillo.

“My client objected to the installation of the transmission line. However, they still proceeded without permission or without showing any court order that they are authorized to install the transmission lines over my client’s property,” Arquillo said.

She said the Sevilleja family intended to seek a court injunction to prevent NLREC from activating the lines. She said her client received an offer to buy the lot but she refused.

“A person can’t be deprived of his property rights without due process. They should have filed an expropriation case and [could have] requested a writ of possession from the court and not put up the lines over the objection of my client,” Arquillo said.

Bangui Mayor Diosdado Garvida said he had not seen any formal complaint against NLREC from any of the families and had not taken action against the project.

“It would be hard for me to meddle. There should at least be a private negotiation. If they can’t settle, they should undergo the legal process,” Garvida said.

NLREC has committed P23.3 million worth of projects for its host communities for 2014 until 2016, 70 percent of which would benefit Pagudpud. The remaining 30 percent would be divided among host villages crossed by the transmission lines.