LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The provincial office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) recommended COHECO Badeo Corporation to first conduct the required free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process on its proposed 500 megawatt pump storage hydro project in the remote village of Badeo, Kibungan, particularly on the conduct of the feasibility study which involves the drilling or boring tests pursuant to existing laws, rules and regulations.
In a 4-page report submitted by Marcos L. Jose, Community Development officer III and Jeckerson Cariño, Administrative Aide I, both of NCIP Benguet, the investigating team cited during the interview with the residents in Badeo, they insinuated that before the drilling activities of COHECO Badeo Corporation, there should be meeting or consultation not only focused to land owners but to the majority of the residents for them to be knowledgeable and understand more the drilling concept, its depth extent, scope and its effects to their lands and domain resources.
Section 19 of the 2012 FPIC revised guidelines cited of the need to conduct FPIC on feasibility studies of large-scale projects and the findings.
The NCIP found out the acronym COHECO Badeo Corporation is different from that of the Cordillera Hydroelectric Power Corporation (COHECO) which intends to operate a 60-mewatt project covering the towns of Kapangan and Kibungan and that the former is the proponent of a 500-mewagatt pump storage hydro plant in Badeo.
At present, Howon Kim alias Larry is the Chairman of the Board and James Kim is the Chief Technical Officer of the proposed 500-megawatt hydro project.
The NCIP report revealed a meeting was conducted among the affected landowners at barangay Sagpat, Kibungan on July 7, 2016 prior to the survey activities facilitated by the COHECO Badeo officers and that there was the job order agreement between the company with that of the parties; Egnr. Paul B. Songyoen, Arsenio Emminga and Andrew Libang for the survey of the pump storage hydro project topographic survey and related works at the project site which started on July 21, 2016 and completed the same on September 4, 2016.
Further, the reported averred that a consultation meeting was called by the OREMET Corporation engineers before the estimated 60 affected stakeholders of the proposed hydro project on August 27, 2016 at the Mocgao Elementary School regarding the upcoming drilling and boring tests but no NCIP official or employee was involved in the said meeting.
It was learned that there was no drilling or boring tests for soil and rock sampling in the project site as of the scheduled NCip investigation.
The NCIP report added the OREMET Corporation was contracted by the COHECO Badeo Corporation purposely to provide geo-technical works, particularly the drilling and boring tests for the soil and rock sampling in the different corners of the project site and that the said activity has been planeed to start this month and that it will be completed in thre months.
However, the CEHECO Badeo was barred from pursuing such geo-technical activities pending the conduct and outcome of the FPIC process that it must strictly undergo.
The NCIP team noted one of the agenda taken during their consultation meeting last August 27, 2016 was the supposed formation of three groups composed of at least 20 people who will be responsible for the hauling of the three units of drilling machines from Santol, La Union to the proposed project sites in Badeo
Even without the conduct and completion of the FPIC process, the team noted the company put up campsites within the vicinity of their project sites for its geo-technical engineers in preparation for the drilling activity.
Residents commended the concerned landowners and local officials for being vigilant to the supposed drilling operations because if not for their timely reports to the concerned agencies and te media, COHECO Badeo could have pursued with its illegal drilling in the area considering that it was able to complete the parcellary survey, put up its campsites within their project sites and delivered the drilling equipment in Santol, La Union ready for transport to Badeo without the consent of the local residents through a transparent FPIC process.
Paul Bagano, COHECO Badeo Corporation chief executive officer, said the company will apply for the conduct of the required FPIC process to the NICP pursuant to the findings and recommendations of the investigating team.
Bagano asserted the company will adhere to the processes prescribed by law such as the consultations with the affected stakeholdes, securing the permission of the landowners and the endorsement of the concerned local government units for their 500-megawatt hydro power project in the area.