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KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Officials of the controversial Coheco Badeo Corporation (CBC), proponent of the ambitious 500-megawatt pump storage hydropower plant in Barangay Badeo, here, are reportedly desperate to secure the endorsement of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) en banc for the issuance of the required certificate of pre-condition (CP) that will allow the environmentally critical project to proceed.
Reliable sources, who preferred not be identified for personal reasons, claimed that CBC officials frequented the NCP Central Office over the put several months lobbying for the NCIP en banc to endorse the company’s CP amidst the presence of a case filed against the project, among other unsettled issues, but their representations were not given due course by the Commissioners.
Earlier, the NCIP deferred action on the approval of CBC’s CP after establishing that some CBC officials who were present in some of their meetings tried to mislead the Commission on the real issues surrounding the implementation of the ambitious project.
The source disclosed one of the issues allegedly being raised by the indigenous peoples (IPs) against the implementation of the new project is their failure to benefit from the proceeds of the sale of the earlier 60-megawatt run-of-river hydro project in Barangay Cuba from the original Korean businessman who transferred the ownership of the project to a Filipino businessman and this same Korean used the same CP for the put up of the CBC that intends to construct the ambitious pump storage hydro project in Badeo.
Further, the source also questioned the financial capacity of the CBC to bankroll the implementation of the project as its current incorporators do not have the financial capacity nor have shown any capacity to generate the needed resources.
In the Cuba experience, the Korean allegedly sold the company to other investors once the NCIP issued the CP for the project with the new operators ignoring the agreements the CBC had with the ancestral domain owners, and it is feared the Badeo people will experience the same serious disadvantage with only the CBC officials and their Korean partner earning at the expense of the IPs who will surely be deprived of their benefits as there is no guarantee prospective investors who will take over will respect the contents of the agreement that the company signed with the IPs.
According to the source, the IPs had been at the losing end of the deal because they did not benefit from the proceeds of the sale of the earlier project wherein they should have received their due share as their consent was reportedly used to leverage for the purchase price of the original company that was agreed upon by both parties.
The source further asserted the IPs of Kibungan and Kapangan are still lucky the Filipino businessman who bought the project from the enterprising Korean businessman agreed to respect the conditions of the memorandum of agreement entered into by the Korean-dominated company and the IPs of both municipalities for the 6-megawatt project which is now undergoing its construction stage.
The source expressed the gratitude of the IPs of Kibugan and Kapangan to the NCIP en banc for its stand not to succumb to the tremendous political pressure being employed by the CBC officials and urged the Commission to continue holding the interest of the IPs over the personal and political interests of companies wanting to exploit the resources within the ancestral domains at the expense of the domain owners.