House probe on Kibungan hydro project premature

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan said the conduct of a full-blown congressional inquiry on the alleged questionable transactions of a Korean national directly involved in the proposed 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project of Coheco Badeo Corporation in Badeo, Kibungan town remains premature at this time.

The three-term lawmaker underscored he is still collating the pertinent documents which could be used against Coheco Badeo Corporation chairman Larry Howon Kim before he will decide on whether or not to push through with the much-awaited congressional inquiry to unmask the people involved in the ambitious project.

“We continue to receive reports and pertinent documents about the previous and current activities of Mr. Kim and we are seriously evaluating the same to guide us in our decision whether or not to push through with the requested congressional inquiry to unmask the people involved in the ambitious project which is detrimental to the state of the environment and the ancestral domain of the indigenous peoples in the affected area,” Cosalan stressed.

He revealed he is not questioning the details of the project but what he is questioning is the motive of the Korean businessman in putting up the Cordillera Hydroelectric Power Corporation (COHECO) which plans to put up a 60-megawatt run-off-river hydro project in barangay Cuba, Kapangan town, diluted his shares in the company and established the Coheco Badeo Corporation that plans to put up a 500-megawatt pump storage project in Badeo.

According to him, there is nothing illegal when he appeared during the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) activities in Madaymen and Poblacion and informed the indigenous peoples to be circumspect in deciding whether or not to favor the project as they have to wait and see whether the 60-megawatt project, a much smaller one, will materialize and bring benefits to the ancestral domain of Kapangan and Kibungan.

As one of the authors of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous peoples Rights Act (IPRA), Cosalan explained there is no provision in the said law that prohibits elected officials to speak before FPIC gatherings, especially when he was just talking about the motive of the Korean businessman and not the details of the project.

He emphasized that IPs should not allow foreigners to be the ones to enrich themselves at their expense when issuing their consent for the 500-megawatt pump storage project because there is a big possibility that Kim is just taking his time to get the consent of the IPs over their ancestral domain and the pertinent permits from concerned government agencies to command a higher buying price for the company in the future which will be to the detriment of the IPs who will be actually at the losing end.

If the Korean businessman was able to easily sell and dilute his shares in COHECO without the knowledge of the IPs, the lawmaker claimed it is likely that a similar situation will transpire in the case of the Coheco Badeo Corporation once the company will be able to get the consent of the IPs for the said project.

He added that he will continue to monitor the conduct of the FPIC process in the different barangays of Kibungan and he will make a final assessment on the conduct of the congressional inquiry in the next few weeks.

By HENT

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