Beew Village and People
Beew is a small village of 48 households of around 300 individuals in the municipality of Tubo, Abra. Tubo is located at 17°16′N 120°44′E which is approximately 800 to 1,500 meters above sea level. Indigenous Peoples of Tubo, including Beew, belong to the Maeng Tribe. They continue to observe indigenous knowledge systems and practices and indigenous system of governance alongside the administration of State local government units. Village level State officials co-exist with the decision-making of traditional elders. Political, economic and cultural issues are discussed and elaborated on through democratic meetings conducted in the indigenous socio-political structure called dap-ay. Cultural integrity and identity largely attached to their ancestral land remain strong among the people.
Beew is among the villages that has no access to electricity. In 2003-2007, the NGO Montanosa Resource and Development Center (MRDC), a network member of the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC), supported the construction of a micro hydropower (MHP) facility, which since then has been providing lighting to all households and a community center for watching movies and educational documentaries. Through the years, electricity needs increased as households started to procure sound systems, television sets and other electrical appliances and the use of communication gadgets became prevalent. The increased energy use and other factors resulted in shutting off of the MHP facility in May, 2019. In 2020, its rehabilitation and upgrading were jointly supported by the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera and Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT). CDPC supported and completed the rehabilitation of sections of the communal irrigation canal, restructuring the forebay and penstock while SIBAT is to fund the upgrading of the MHP equipment (turbine, generator, electronic load controller).
The capacity of the MHP is 20 KW which from the onset provided electric power to 37 households, each for 2 light bulbs, and the community movie center. Today, 48 households are utilizing the MHP not only for the earlier design of 2 light bulbs (100w each bulb) but also to power appliances. Power supply is available most of the year for 7 hours: from 5:00 – 10:00 pm and 4:00 – 6:00 am. Today, the community movie center is seldom used as households have procured their own televisions sets.
The emission factor for the Philippine Luzon grid is at 0.507g/kwh provided by an energy mix of 49% coal, 25% natural gas, and 26% geothermal, hydro, biomass, diesel, wind and solar. With usage of at least at 67kwh/day or 24,000,000kwh per year, the carbon emission avoided from using the MHP estimated at 12,000kg/year which would require at least 1,200 Benguet pine trees (estimate of 10kg carbon absorption/pine tree/year) to absorb the carbon emission from using electricity from the grid.
Community Involvement in MHP Feasibility Study in 2003. The feasibility study undertaken by MRDC in 2003 underwent three stages that involved the Beew community:
Stage 1: Building Community Ownership. A series of community meetings were conducted through the community’s indigenous political structures and processes combined with the processes under the existing people’s organization. Among the key issues and policies arrived at were:
- The river source of water was corroborated by elders to be more than sufficient all year round to provide the required volume of water.
- Villagers reaffirmed their customary practice and policies on the protection of the watershed (lapat system) such as prohibition of swidden farming, honey harvesting and cutting of trees for commercial purposes. Environment impact was thoroughly discussed and no issues were raised on possible negative bearing.
- The users of the communal irrigation system granted their consent for hosting the MHP and the rehabilitation needed to ensure its capacity for the increased volume of water and the de-sanding structures.
- Land to be used for the extension canal, forebay, penstock and power house and those impacted by the power distribution system were voluntarily donated by the private owners.
Stage 2: Technical Feasibility Study. MRDC staff together with community volunteers conducted a technical study on the water flow rate based on the qualitative data provided by villagers. The technical study used the float method and flow meter device. After the technical computation based on the water discharge and 50m head, a 20kw power output was recommended. The technical design included other support structures such as the powerhouse, forebay, penstock, turbine, generators and route for electrical posts.
Stage 3: Presentation of Feasibility Study to the Community. The result of the feasibility study was presented to the villagers who concurred with the MHP technical design. The work plan for construction was detailed, and operation and management systems and policies were established.
Building Capacity and Skills for Operation and Maintenance. The overall management of the MHP facility was given to the existing people’s organization Batayan Farmers Association, which formed two committees under the guidance of its officers. The committee on operation and maintenance took charge of all mechanical and electrical matters such as cleaning the water intake, maintaining the turbine and generator and turning the power house off and on daily. They were provided extensive training on technical knowledge and skills and for the first few months were supervised by MRDC staff.
The other committee was tasked for collection of household payments, safe keeping and administering the MHP’s use based on policies set by the PO.
Indigenous Socio-Political System and Community Ownership. The installation of the MHP facility reinforced the persisting indigenous value system on communal possession, utilization and management of natural resources.
Communal ownership and indigenous socio-political system of management are innate in the Beew MHP facility given that it was installed using an existing traditional communal irrigation system. Firstly, the water is part of the community’s natural resource in their ancestral territory which had been been part of a successful Cordillera-wide defense from the incursion of a logging company in the early 1980’s. Secondly, the communal irrigation system, although being utilized and managed by the owners of the rice paddies whose ancestors tapped the water from the river system, remains a communal resource of the entire village, again because water has since time immemorial been treated as a communal resource. In addition, the irrigation canal cuts across sections of the ancestral territory. Community ownership of the MHP was reaffirmed as the community is utilizing a communal water resource with all villagers as the beneficial users.
Other than providing clean energy power, the MHP is playing a crucial role in strengthening the lapat system, the indigenous system of conserving and protecting natural resources. The lapat system stems from the tribe’s social ethos that natural resources are communal resources that must be used responsively and sustainably and stewarded collectively for present and future generations. It emanates from the principle that natural resources are sources of life, protected and conserved collectively by the tribe’s forebears and subsequently passed on as collective responsibility of the present generation to nurture and sustain for the next generation.
The lapat system sets prohibitions and regulations of economic activities and harvesting of forest resources in certain sections of the forest in specific months of the year or for several years. Commercial logging and large-scale mining operations are strictly prohibited in lapat areas. All these prohibitions and regulations are being observed which also support the community-managed micro hydro power facility.