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TUBA, Benguet – Aware of the Cordillera region’s vast potential to host renewable energy projects, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) will push the stakes higher to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) in the region will be protected.
Gaspar Cayat, NCIP commissioner for Region 1 and the Cordillera, said the thrust came about in light of the continuing interest of power developers to tap the region’s waters and rivers for energy development.
Cayat, who was the guest speaker of the Benguet Electric Cooperative’s (Beneco) annual general membership assembly here last Saturday, said energy developers, the IPs and the NCIP must work together to arrive at mutually acceptable terms of development.
“BENECO got its certificate of precondition (CP) from NCIP because it successfully hurdled the required free, prior and informed consent (FPIC),” Cayat said, referring to the ongoing construction of Beneco’s 3MW mini hydro power plant in Buguias town.
The FPIC is the community consensus building while the CP is the notice issued by the NCIP that certifies the project developer’s compliance with the FPIC. Both FPIC and CP are required by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
“The NCIP, Beneco and the IPs must help each other,” he said, adding that the IPs are vital stakeholders of every local energy development project. Cayat said that as NCIP commissioner, he will always work on the premise of his advocacy – that IPs and indigenous cultural communities are partners for genuine development.
Cayat also lauded BENECO’s bid to develop renewable energy projects in Kabayan. “We learned that BENECO is currently negotiating a memorandum of agreement with the IPs of Kabayan for a partnership on the development of energy projects using the town’s water resources,” he said.
Cayat said the effort is an example of recognizing the rights of IPs and giving them a crucial stake in the project.
To boost the NCIP’s resolve to become more effective, Cayat said the commission is currently threshing out the issue on overlapping ancestral land claims between the NCIP, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Land Registration Authority (LRA).
There is an existing administrative order to effect such effort and we hope the result would contribute to the peaceful resolution of land conflicts, Cayat said. He said Baguio City will soon host a land congress to finally settle the concern on overlapping claims within ancestral lands and domains.
By DELMAR O. CARINO