KIBUNGAN, Benguet – The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) en banc reportedly deferred acting on the grant of the required certificate of pre-condition (CP) to the Coheco Badeo Corporation (CBC) for its proposed 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project in barangay Badeo here after attempts by some company officials to allegedly mislead the Commission on prevailing issues confronting the ambitious project.
Sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, disclosed that CBC officials went to attend a meeting of the Commission in Zambales recently where the company’s CP application was deliberated as the same was calendared for discussion by the said body but the proponents allegedly mislead the Commissioners when asked relevant questions on the proposed hydro project.
The sources claimed that when asked on the previous issues raised by former Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan on the financial capacity of the company to bankroll the multi-billion project, the company’s technical capacity to work on an environmentally critical project and the alleged sale of the consent of the indigenous peoples (IPs) to enterprising developers, company officials were not able to convince the Commissioners to favorably act on the grant of the CP for the said project.
What aggravated the situation, according to the sources, was the response of company officials who allegedly denied the pendency of cases against the project despite the pendency of a case for the nullification of the results of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) and prayer for writ of preliminary injunction before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 63 aside from a similar case on the same issue lodged with the NCIP.
The sources stated that the Commissioners were constrained to defer action on the company’s application for the grant of the CP after reportedly realizing that there was an attempt by the company officials who were present to mislead them into favourably acting on their request amidst the existence of numerous issues and concerns that were raised by the indigenous peoples against the multi-billion project.
Under the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), companies intending to exploit, develop and utilize the resources of the State that are within the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities must first secure the free and prior informed consent of the affected IPs after which the same will be submitted to the Commission en banc for the issuance of the required CP that will allow the project to proceed.
Previously, the controversial conduct of the FPIC process caused the IPs of Badeo to declare an official of the NCIP-CAR persona non grata for allegedly manipulating the FPIC process and results that paved the way for the issuance of the consent of the IPs for the project despite the projected serious negative impact of the environmentally critical project to the environment and the sources of livelihood of the people in the domain.
The sources warned the Commission en banc to seriously consider the outcome of the previous deliberations on the project as a guide in coming out with a firm decision on the issue that will protect the greater interest of the IPs and their domain in the future when the matter will be again discussed en banc.. By HENT