KAPANGAN, Benguet – The Cordillera Hydroelectric Power Corporation (COHECO) started constructing the proposed 3.1-kilomter access road from Balacbac to the Cuba junction which is part of the company’s commitment to the host communities in the municipality.
COHECO is the proponent of a 60-megawatt run-of-river hydro project that will be constructed within the jurisdiction of Kapangan and Kibungan towns.
Lawyer Jingboy Atonen, COHECO legal counsel, said that the company already started constructing the proposed access road as part of the company’s sustained effort to fulfil its obligations enshrined under the memorandum of agreement that it signed with the indigenous peoples organizations of both municipalities.
He added that the proposed access road will also serve link isolated communities to the Acop-Kapangan-Kibungan-Bakun road and for them to be able to have the ease in transporting their agricultural produce from their farms to the main highway and eventually to the market in the capital town of La Trinidad.
“We hope that we can complete the opening of the Balacbac access road within a period of five months so that the people living in the isolated areas that will be traversed by the road will be able to use it aside from serving as the company’s access road in bring their units equipment to the proposed site of the hydro project,” Atonen stressed.
He emphasized that the renewable energy company is inclined to fulfil its commitment to the indigenous peoples organizations and the host communities on the ongoing construction of the hydro power plant considering that most of the activities leading to the full blast put up of the power plants re already underway amidst the several setbacks that the company was able to encounter in the previous years.
The power generation company plans to put up the 60-megawatt hydro power project within portions of the Amburayan River that is within the jurisdiction of the two municipalities.
According to him, the construction of the Balacbac access road was one of the conditions imposed by the indigenous peoples to the company in exchange for their free and prior informed consent that paved the way for the issuance of a certificate of pre-condition for the hydro facility pursuant to the agreement entered into between the company and the IP organizations of both towns.
Under the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), companies intending to exploit, develop and utilize the rich resources of the State within the ancestral domain of the indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities must first seek the free and prior informed consent of the affected IPs and ICCs prior to the implementation of any development work in their domain.
Atonen called on the affected IPs for utmost cooperation and understanding on the company’s compliance to their commitments in their agreement considering that all efforts are being exerted to complete the hydro project and make the same operational for the benefit of the IPs and ICCs in the host communities.