Three activists from the Philippines called on the Export-Import Bank of Japan and a group of Japanese banks to withdraw support for a controversial dam project that the activists say will destroy the lives of riverside residents.

Officials from the Export-Import Bank said they are holding their approval of the project’s final funding installment until local consent is gained.

Representatives from the bank have made numerous visits to the site, and consultation with locals on relocation and compensation is under way, said Yukihisa Hayakawa of the governmental bank’s public relation’s department. There is no schedule or deadline for a decision, he added.

The activists contend that the nearly $1.2 billion project will impact at least 20,000 people — some of whom will have to move and others who will no longer be able to use their ancestral land because it falls in the watershed area.

They also worry that sediment flushed downstream from the numerous upriver mines will ruin the natural environment and water quality.

The three activists represent an indigenous Philippine group called the Ibaloy people.

Under the proposed plan, the San Roque Power Corporation would build a dam on the Agno River in the Cordillera region of northeastern Luzon, the nation’s largest and main island. The dam, which would be the largest in Asia, would produce 345 megawatts of electricity. Supporters say it is needed to irrigate land downstream, control floods and enhance water quality.

The San Roque Power is jointly funded by Marubeni Corp., Sithe Philippines, a subsidiary of a New York-based company and the Kansai Electric Power Company.

“Many of the people of the Dalupirip Region are opposed to the construction of the San Roque Dam,” said Pascual Pocding, a 72-year old farmer and member of a local dam opposition group who lives 4 km above the scheduled site.

Pocding was speaking at a news conference at the Environment Agency.

“Once the construction of the dam goes through, there will be great damage to our homes, farmland and fruit trees,” he said, citing two dams constructed upstream that submerged inhabited areas.

The three activists spoke with three Diet members, officials from the Finance Ministry and Export-Import Bank on Tuesday and will meet with other officials during the rest of the week.

The Export-Import Bank approved roughly $300 million in loans for the project in Oct. 1998 and about $150 million was approved from a consortium of seven Japanese banks.

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