KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Concerned indigenous peoples (IP) leaders slammed the propaganda of the controversial Coheco Badeo Corporation by falsely projecting that the IPs of the different barangays endorsed the ambitious 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project when in fact the results of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the project in some barangays had been questionable while some barangays imposed some conditions.
The IP leaders argued there is no truth to the public statements made by Coheco Badeo Corporation officials over the radio that the IPs of Kibungan endorsed the project because only the majority of pre-selected members of the Council of Elders were the ones who voted for the project and not the totality of IPs in the municipality.
In the case of Badeo, the sources explained the FPIC result is questionable because the IPs and the landowners were against the project based on a signed resolution they submitted to the FPIC team. However, the FPIC team of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) instead pre-selected a group of the Council of Elders that favoured the project.
In Tacadang, the IPs were also against the project and like in Badeo, the majority of the pre-selected members of the Council voted yes for the project but put the condition that the landowners in Badeo who opposed the project based on a signed resolution will retract their written objection to the project.
For barangays Poblacion, Madaymen and Lubo, the pre-selected members of the Council of Elders said that their endorsement of the project was conditional wherein all issues that were raised by the Badeo landowners must be addressed first and that they have to retract their resolution strongly opposing the implementation of the pump storage project in their place because if the affected landowners will not allow their properties to be used by the developer, then there is no pump storage project to speak of.
The sources claimed only the pre-selected members of the Council of Elders in Sagpat and Palina endorsed the project without any condition because of the alleged influence-peddling done by former provincial and municipal officials who kept calling the concerned leaders to vote for the project.
According to the sources, there is a big possibility that the members of the Council of Elders who conditionally voted for the project will take back their endorsements once the problem on the opposition of the Badeo landowners will not be effectively addressed in the coming months, thus, they welcomed the 20-day suspension slapped by the leadership of the NCIP-CAR on the FPIC proceedings to allow the members of the validation team to verify the veracity of the complaints raised against the members of the FPIC team and the process itself.
The concerned IP leaders also commended the NCIP-CAR for ruling that Coheco Badeo Corporation has never been transparent in the conduct of the FPIC process when it actually failed to present to the IPs the costs, benefits and privileges that they will get once the project will push through, thus, there was actually deceit and fraud in the course of the process.