The Export-Import Bank of Japan says it is postponing the implementation of loans approved for the San Roque multipurpose dam on the Agno river in northern Luzon in the Philippines, because local tribespeople’s approval is a prerequisite to the project.

Three representatives of tribespeople in the northern Philippines had urged Ex-Im and Japanese firms to stop financing the construction of the dam, saying the project threatens to uproot them. The three organisations, who visited the bank’s Tokyo office, are opposing the construction which started late last year after the bank approved a US$302M loan for the project.

The tribes, which live in an area 4km upriver from the proposed dam, are concerned that the dam will flood their ancestral lands, resulting in dislocation and disruption of the ecological balance. The dam is a US$1.19B project that is expected to generate 345MW of power to be used by agro-industrial firms in the surrounding areas.

It is being built by a consortium of Japanese and US firms headed by a subsidiary of New York-based Sithe Energies Corp, Tokyo-based Marubeni Corp and Osaka-based Kansai Electric Power Co under the Philippine government’s build-operate-transfer programme. Apart from the approved amount, the bank is also considering a supplementary loan of US$400M to complete the project. The three tribal representatives were planning to travel to Sendai, Kyoto and Osaka to press their appeal and seek the support of the Japanese public.