KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Indigenous peoples of barangay Badeo, here, petitioned a local court to issue a writ of preliminary injunction requiring Coheco Badeo Corporation (CBC) and the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Commission (NCIP-CAR) to cease and desist from continuing the required free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process on the application of the certification pre-condition of CBC for its proposed 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project in the said barangay.
In a 33-page petition, the IPs also prayed that the court declare as null and void the resolution of consent executed by the Kankana-ey elders in Badeo in favour of CBC for its ambitious power plant project aside from nullifying the FPIC conducted by the NCIP for the issuance of the certification pre-condition to CBC.
Further, the IPs also requested the court to order the denial of the application and issuance of certificate pre-condition to CBC by the NCIP considering that the process was allegedly tainted with fraud and anomalies that tend to compromise the interests of the affected IPs.
The petition pointed out that other than the economic and social impact that the CBC’s proposed project have on the members of the IPs of Badeo, there is also an environmental injury that the complained hydro power plant will cause considering that no environmental impact study was presented to the IPs, thus, the people were not well informed of the effects of the company’s project to their own environment in violation of their rights as found in law.
“Without being fully educated on the consequences of building a hydro power plant to the ancestral domain, the IPs cannot properly manage the resources in their territory, nor could they effectively negotiate the terms and conditions of the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources in their domain,” the petition stated.
According to the petition, the municipalities of Kapangan, Benguet and Santol, La Union are within the ancestral domain affected by the proposed 500-megawatt hydro power plant project and the omission of the said municipalities in the FPIC process constitutes a violation of their right as recognized in Section 20 of the FPIC guidelines that were crafted for the purpose.
Considering that the pump storage hydro project encroaches on the ancestral domain that also covers barangays in the two municipalities, the petitioners alleged that their consent should also be considered and secured pursuant to the guidelines, rules and regulations for the said process.
The petition stipulated that the resolution of consent submitted by the elders of Badeo does not constitute the decision of the IPs and is not a free and prior informed consent as defined by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, hence, the same should be declared null and void.
Further, the petitioners claimed that CBC’s butchering of numerous pigs per sitio in Badeo is tantamount to a sponsored dining session, in violation of Section 65 of the FPIC guidelines.
Worst, the petition stated that in contravention to the guidelines, there was no full disclosure of the scope and impact of the project contrary to what was provided that an independent expert should be invited to give their expert opinion so that the IPs can have a clear understanding of the perceived disadvantages and adverse effects of the proposed project to the community.
The petitioners emphasized that the two consultative assemblies that were called for the purpose did not cover the impact of the project in the environment and that there was also no feasibility study that was conducted for the purpose considering the huge scope of the proposed hydro power plant that warrants the conduct of an environmental impact study should have been first done so that the IPs may be fully informed of its environmental effects.
The petitioners divulged that the IPs of Badeo were not given any independent advise that will enable them to understand the project and its impact to their community and that having relined on what CBC told them, the affected IPs were not able to make a well informed decision on the project.
Section 22 of the IPRA stipulated that one of the matters that shall be taken up is the orientation of the participants to the IPRA and the FPIC process, and the invitation of independent experts to give their opinions on the effects of the project to the host communities.