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BAKUN, Benguet – All’s well that ends well!
This was the scenario after local officials, indigenous peoples and officers of the Aboitiz-owned HEDCOR, Inc. were able to strike a record-breaking agreement that ended months of standoff that paved the way for the resumption of the operation of the company’s three minihydro power plants.
Lawyer Marlon Bosantog, regional director of the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR), disclosed that the renewed agreement between the Bakun Indigenous Tribes Organization (BITO) and HEDCOR will make the same as the highest in terms of benefits to the IPs via a signed document for operating plants.
The actual benefits that will be derived by the IPs from the renewed agreement is much higher compared to the P0.01 per kilowatthour fixed rate that was contained in the 2019 agreement that was signed before the same was not recognized.
Under the agreement, the Bakun IPs will be receiving a total of P0.14 per kilowatthour that will include P0.09 per kilowatthour in terms of cash benefits, P0.03 per kilowatthour that will be converted into projects and P0.02 per kilowatthour mandatory benefits aside from the P5 million financial assistance or signing bonus which will be given to the IPs upon the signing of the agreement and P5 million for road development and maintenance projects.
Further, Bosantog stated that the agreed benefits that will accrue to the IPs will be over and above the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects and that the same will be enjoyed by the IPs during the 25-year lifespan of the agreement or upon the expiration of the service contract that was issued by the energy department to the company.
“This could be the start of a good partnership between the local government, the IPs and the company. If there is a spirit of unity, the IPs can decide what is the best for their communities,” Bosantog stressed.
The NCIP-CAR official pointed that Bakun was able to send a clear message to other IPs in the country that they can work out how to avail of the maximum benefits from the utilization and development of the resources that are within their domain for the benefit of the present and future generations of IPs.
According to him, part of the agreement is for HEDCOR to withdraw all the cases that were filed with the courts and the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) against NCIP-CAR officials, local government executives and the IPs while BITO will withdraw the resolutions of non-consent and the termination of the negotiations for the hydro power plant operations upon the execution of the renewed agreement.
He also called on public officials to learn to trust the wisdom of the elders in deciding what is best for their communities because if they are doing their job well, then it will translate to good solutions of the problems that will transpire in the implementation of development projects within their domain.
Last June 30, 2021, the cease and desist order (CDO) that was issued by the NCIP-CAR on the operation of the company’s 3 minihydro power plants took effect after the BITO stood firm on its decision to enforce the same following alleged unsuccessful negotiations between the concerned parties.
Bosantog admitted that there were tremendous pressures from the energy department, Senate and other government officials for the re-opening of the power plants but the IPs stood firm on their position to fight for their rights and increased benefits from the said hydro operations.
He explained that the unimplemented projects contained in the 2019 agreement that will retroact to 2017 will have to be implemented aside from other monetary benefits to the local government that will also retroact to 2021.
Bosantog claimed that even IPs in Mindanao were awaiting the developments in the previous impasse between the Bakun IPs and HEDCOR as the results will definitely serve as the template for them to be able to use the same to work out solutions on how to maximize the benefits of the utilization and development of the resources that are within their domain. By Dexter A. See