BACNOTAN, La Union – The Kapangan-based Cordillera Hydroelectric Power Corporation (COHECO) entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with tribal elders of the Bago tribe living in barangay Arosip, here, that will allow the company to put up some of the poles of its transmission lines within the ancestral domain of the indigenous peoples (IPs).
Jingboy Atonen, COHECO legal counsel, said that the signing of the agreement was achieved after the company underwent the conduct of the required free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process with the affected IPs pursuant to the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) .
Under the law, companies intending to introduce development projects within the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities must first secure the consent of the affected indigenous peoples through the prescribed process.
Based on the agreement, the IPs will be enjoying a P100,000 annual financial assistance from the company which will be used for the scholarship of deserving beneficiaries from the tribe, aside from the provision of funding support for the construction of waterworks for the 6 sitios and the rehabilitation of the tribal hall in the area.
Atonen stated that with the consent of the affected IPs as enshrined in the agreement, the local power company could now construct its 24-kilometer transmission line from its power house in barangay Badeo, Kibungan, Benguet to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) tapping substation in Barangay Narra, here that will traverse the town of Santol, also an IP-dominated lowland municipality.
Earlier, COHECO was able to secure the consent of the IPs in Santol town that allowed the company to construct the poles of its transmission lines from its power house which is now undergoing construction.
The COHECO official explained that the signing of the agreement with the IPs in Barangay Arosip came late because it was just recently that the company was able to discover that their transmission lines will pass through the IP-dominated area, thus, the conduct of the FPIC process that yielded positive results.
Earlier, COHECO was able to pursue the construction of its pilot road project in Kapangan, Benguet where it was already able to reach the location of its adit NO. 1 passing through the weir towards the remote village of Badeo, Kibungan town.
According to him, despite the difficulties of the mountainous terrain, precipice, the adverse weather condition and the prevailing global pandemic, Atonen claimed that the pilot road now is some 5 kilometers from its junction with the Acop-Kapangan-Kibungan-Bakun-Buguias national road.
COHECO plans to build a 60-megawatt run-of-river hydro power plant that will benefit the indigenous peoples of the ancestral domains of Kibungan and Kapangan as the same is being viewed as a major economic driver in the area following the put up of major infrastructures beneficial to the IP communities both in the highlands and the lowlands based on the benefits defined under existing laws, rules and regulations.