Hydro firm wants fair resolution of Bakun conflict

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BAKUN, Benguet – The HEDCOR, Inc. wants a fair, reasonable and sustainable resolution of the prevailing issues on the operation of its three hydro power plants in the municipality for it to continue generating clean and renewable energy and from such generation, provide the community shares and benefits for the benefit of indigenous peoples.

In a statement, the company recognizes the important role of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in championing fairness and due process rights and protecting the integrity of the free and prior informed consent, thus, it reiterated its call for the conduct of a dialogue to resolve any misunderstanding between the firm and the indigenous communities.

“Our plants have operated prior to the institution of the IPRA law and during its implementation, we have given the IPRA law due recognition and exerted effort to comply with its requirements. We are doing all we can to resolve the matter and to secure the issuance of the certificate of pre-condition which has long been delayed. This is a process we hold with deep respect and trust and we had made sure that we followed the guidance of the NCIP every step of the way. We continue to be one with the NCIP in ensuring the protection of the rights of the IPs and it is our hope that we get their continued support for us to remit the mandated benefits that the IPs deserve,” Noreen Vicencio, HEDCOR vice president for external affairs, stated.

Earlier, HEDCOR received a resolution from the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) under the Office of the President ordering Bakun officials to issue the business permit of HEDCOR in accordance with law and to explain why they should not be held liable for their alleged refusal to act on the company’s business permit application which similar echoes the opinions issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government for local government units to strictly adhere to the legal requirements for a business permit pursuant to law.

In July 2020, the municipal government ordered the stoppage of operations of HEDCOR after failing to agree on the terms of a separate agreement for additional shares for the local government on top of legally mandated contributions.

HEDCOR has been part of the Bakun community in the past 30 years and that the company hopes to continue to be the town’s partner for progress for the years to come and that it reiterated its appeal to the tribal leaders and local officials for a fair, reasonable and sustainable resolution of issues the soonest.

On May 4, 2021, the company received a letter from NCIP-CAR regional director lawyer Marlon Bosantog stating that it has no more legal justification to continue with the operations of its 3 hydro power plants and that it should immediately return the land occupied by its facilities to the ICCs-IPs.

HEDCOR expressed deep concern over the turn of events as it is not consistent with the 2018 NCIP rules of procedure but it is now studying the remedies available for reconsideration and appeal under existing regulations.

Further, it added that the aforesaid finding also disregards the existence of a valid and binding agreement executed on October 15, 2019 between HEDCOR and the Bakun Indigenous Tribe Organization (BITO) where its community shares and implementation of community projects in compliance with the IPRA and the same refuses to acknowledge the result of the free, prior and informed consent process which has been facilitated by NCIP-CAR since 2017.

The company asserted that it has been compliant with all the necessary requirements to ensure business continuity and sustained benefits for the ancestral domain and that it had been reasonable with its negotiations with the Bakun community.

HEDCOR called on NCIP-CAR to recognize and respect the free and prior informed consent and the subsequent agreement between HEDCOR and the ICCs-IPs, and to ensure that the same is guarded against undue influence and interference, and ultimately to protect the integrity and sanctity of the concluded process.

According to the statement, the company’s 3 Bakun plants have gone through a rigorous  and successful FPIC process, resulting in the issuance of the certificate of consent, and consequently, a signed agreement and as a sign of good faith and recognizing the long standing partnership between HEDCOR and the Bakun ICCs-IPs, the company did not hesitate to proceed with the implementation of certain provisions of the agreement upon the request of the BITO even ahead of the issuance of the required certificate of pre-condition with the full knowledge and support of the NCIP-CAR.

HEDCOR asserted that it is difficult to understand why NCIP-CAR is allegedly delaying the issuance of the certificate of pre-condition which reportedly denies the Bakun ICCS-IPs the timely enjoyment of their rightful community share from the continuing operations of the Bakun hydro power plants. By HENT

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