Court issues status quo for hydros

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BAKUN, Benguet – A local court recently issued a status quo ante order to allow the continuous operation of the three minihydro power plants being operated by HEDCOR, Inc. in view of the mutual agreement of the company and the municipal government to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the said plants.

In a ruling handed down by the Regional Trail Court (RTC) Branch 64 based in nearby Buguias town, the writ of preliminary injunction that was also issued simultaneous with the status quo ante order clearly prevents the municipal government and all persons acting on its behalf from further threatening or actually stopping the company’s plants.

The company clarified that it was compelled to resort to legal remedies to defend itself against the alleged threats to its operations and that the legal steps it has taken so far are neither criminal or administrative actions against the municipal government or the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR). Nor are the officials sought to be made personally liable.

‘As we’ve stated before, HEDCOR has also equally important obligations to the energy consumers, the government, and its other stakeholders. We are exhausting all available remedies so that the energy needs of the community and the COVID-19 efforts of the government are not compromised,” HEDCOR vice president for operations Leo Lungay stressed.

Aside from the writ of preliminary injunction and the status ante order, HEDCOR also received a letter from the energy department dated July 1, 2021 directing the company’s Bakun plants to reconnect to the Luzon grid, in very clear terms, specifically ‘to ensure your company/s supply to the grid and if you have disconnected, you are ordered to connect to the grid the soonest possible or upon receipt of this letter.

In the aforesaid letter, the energy department reiterated its earlier directive in very clear terms, HEDCOR, emphasizing the tight power supply situation in the Luzon grid, thus, the need for the Bakun hydro power plants to continue operations.

The DOE also cited its March 2, 2021 advisory on ensuring reliable and stable electric power supply during the government/s COVID-19 vaccine roll out program and the Department Circular No. DC 2020-04-0008 entitled ‘rationalizing the utilization of Energy Regulation (ER) No. 1-94 funds by host local government units in response to COVID-19 public health emergency.’

Currently, HEDCOR remains willing and open to a dialogue with the Bakun Indigenous Tribes Organization (BITO) as the company believes that if both parties sit down and talk, they can come up with a mutually beneficial resolution to the present impasse.

The company has continuously reached out to the indigenous peoples for a dialogue prior to and amidst its shutdown in the municipality.

In fact, officials from the energy sector as well as Gov. Melchor Diclas have issued previous statements calling for talks between both parties and for HEDCOR’s resumed operations of its 3 hydro power plants in the municipality.

However, despite of the company’s efforts and the growing call for a dialogue, the BITO and the municipal government remain firm on their alleged refusal to sit down and talk.

Earlier, the BITO issued a resolution stating the termination of future talks and negotiations with the company, citing the recent cases which the company filed to allow its continued operation of the power plants.

“We are really saddened on how the issue unfolded. We have received orders to keep our plants running but we are constrained from resuming operations to prioritize the safety and security of the community, our employees and our assets,” Lungay exclaimed. By HENT