KIBUNGAN, Benguet – The Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) confirmed that the area covered by the Special Land Use Permit (SLUP) of Coheco Badeo Corporation (CBC) for its proposed 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project overlaps the Forest Land Use Agreement (FLAG) that the agency granted to the Cordillera Hydroelectric Power Corporation (COHECO) for its 60-megawatt run-off-river project covering Kapangan and Kibungan towns.
Based on a report prepared by a composite team tasked by the PENRO to conduct ground validation on the SLUP application of CBC, the main access road to the power plant complex of CBC will be routed from the Quirino highway national road wherein an approximate of 10 kilometers of new road will be constructed for the transportation of equipment and other power plant components and that the same will be designed to be all-weather road with a breach of 4 to 7 meters.
However, the members of the validation team found out that portions of the proposed access roads overlaps with the proposed transmission of COHECO 60 as indicated in their FLAG amendment.
The report added that over 63 hectares of the approved FLAG of COHECO was overlapped by the proposed SLUP application of CBC which is actually not allowed under existing laws, rules and regulations.
Sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, claimed that CBC officials are now trying their best to reconsider the earlier recommendation of the PENRO for the denial of the SLUP application with the agency’s central office but they were initially told that the overlapping cannot be cured by other tenorial instruments that could be issued for the purpose.
Because of the dilemma of CBC that its project will no longer push through due to the prevalence of inter-related issues that can no longer be resolved, critics of the ambitious project claimed that there are no more takers of the company considering the various controversial issues surrounding how the project will be implemented, thus, the questionable memorandum of agreement that was entered by the CBC and the indigenous peoples might no longer be material.
The sources claimed that it will be unfair to the management of COHECO 60 which earlier worked hard for the approval of their permits to put up the hydro power plant if CBC will just come in the picture and demand for the former’s consent to allow both projects to push through when the CBC had been allegedly continuously ruining the image of the corporation that started its project over 10 years ago.
The sources described the PENRO report as a victory on their part in seeking the eventual stoppage of the ambitious project because of its expected serious negative effects to the environment and the sources of livelihood of the people living along the Amburayan river considering the expected occurrence of massive flooding that will lead to the displacement of thousands of people in Kapangan. Kibungan in Benguet and Santol and other low-lying towns in La Union.
COHECO 60 is now implementing the construction of its 60-megawatt run-of-river project in barangay Cuba while CBC has yet to secure the necessary permits for its planned 500-megawatt pump storage project in the remote village of Badeo. By HENT