Hydro power firm need IP consent for operation

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BAKUN, Benguet – The Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) opined that HEDCOR, Inc. cannot operate without the agency’s issuance of a certification precondition (CP) on the continued operation of its three minihydro power plants located in the municipality.

Further, NCIP-CAR regional director lawyer Marlon Bosantog stated that the indigenous peoples have the right to suspend any project within their ancestral domain if proponents cannot satisfy the required consultation process and the subsequent issuance of their consent for the desired projects.

He pointed out that Bakun is a municipal wide ancestral domain with a registered certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) under the name of indigenous peoples.

Based on NCIP-CAR records, HEDCOR, Inc. has a pending certification precondition application for its existing hydroelectric power plants situated in the municipality.

Moreover, the company sought to secure their CP following the expiration of their memorandum of agreement (MOA) entered into between the hydro power company and the host communities in 1991 then later 1993.

Bosantog explained that apart from the MOA, permits issued to the company reportedly lapsed including their business permit that was issued by the municipal government.

According to him, HEDCOR’s application for CP is an essential requirement to allow the company to secure the necessary permits needing renewals.

The NCIP anchored its opinion on Section 59 of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) which stated that all departments and other governmental agencies shall henceforth be strictly enjoined from issuing, renewing, or granting any concession, license or lease, or entering into any production sharing agreement, without prior certification from the NCIP that the area affected does not overlap with any ancestral domain. That the ICCs-IPs shall have the right to stop or suspend, in accordance with the law, any project that has not satisfied the requirements of this consultation process.

Earlier, Mayor Bill Raymundo sought the legal opinion of the NCIP-CAR on the ongoing minihydro power plant operation of HEDCOR in the municipality as there was no CP issued by the NCIP in favor of the company on its operation as required under the IPRA.

The Bakun Indigenous Tribe Organization (BITO) also passed Resolution No. 01, series of 2021, that issued a non-consent position with regard the operation of the 3 minihydro power plants of HEDCOR, Inc. located within barangay Poblacion namely Lon-oy Hydro Power Plant and lower Labay Hydro Power Plant and within barangays Poblacion and Sinacbat namely FL Singit hydro power plant.

The resolution claimed that due to the expiration of the 1991 MOA, the expiration of the business permit and the non-issuance of certification pre-condition, the elders of the BITO unanimously decided to invoke their right as ancestral domain owners of Bakun thereby issuing their non-consent position as to the operation of the company within their domain.

Among the reasons cited for the non-consent include the alleged non-compliance of the company to agreements between the elders and the company; alleged reduction of agreed-on benefits; misunderstanding caused by the reduction of benefits; filing of charges against municipal officials for upholding  indigenous peoples rights and that the aforesaid charges caused dismay among the people. By HENT