KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Concerned indigenous peoples (IP) leaders in the different villages in this town expressed disappointment over the recent decision of the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) that outrightly dismissed their petition to suspend the conduct of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) for the 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project of Coheco Badeo Corporation despite the admission of some company officials that the project has no detailed plans and specifications and design that could withstand the occurrence of strong earthquakes.
Lilian Donato, an IP leader of Madaymen, pointed out during the series of community consultative assemblies that were already done in the different barangays, it is clear that the proponent does not have the technical and financial capacity to bankroll the implementation of the P35 billion state-of-the-art hydro power plant.
She added based on the presentation of Coheco Badeo Corporation officials, what is evident is that the company is only equipped with the conceptual design of the project which could be altered anytime thereby leaving the IPs in a quandary on what will be approved as the final design for the pump storage project.
Earlier, concerned IPs petitioned the NCIP-Car to suspend the FPIC proceedings for the pump storage project in barangay Badeo because of the company’s failure to complete its documentary requirements pursuant to the cease and desist order issued by the agency requiring the company to submit pertinent documents relative to the project and the absence of experts to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the said project.
Donato claimed IP leaders remain optimistic that the NCIP-CAR will not be used by 8interest groups to legalize what has been illegal and moralize what has been immoral.
Lawyer Roland P. Calde, NCIP-CAR regional director, denied the petition to suspend the FPIC proceedings for the pump storage project considering that the issues raised by the IPs could be expounded in the conduct of the community consultative assemblies wherein the company will be obliged to comply with the government’s full disclosure policy by being transparent in explaining the details of the project to the concerned IPs in the town’s ancestral domain.
For her part, Benita Cadangen, another IP leader from Madaymen, said the absence of the detailed technical aspects of the project only shows that the company is not actually ready to work on the project, thus, the need for the company to go back to the drawing board and formulate the detailed plans for the IPs to really appreciate and not for the company to rely on alleged table maps and table surveys just to get their consent for the project.
Coheco Badeo Corporation will provide some $200 million equity for the pump storage project while the remaining $500 million will be sourced from bank loans and possible investments from the company’s foreign and local partners who have signified their intention to help in putting up the first pump storage power facility in the country that will be hosted by the municipality.
The company intends to secure the consent of the IPs within the town’s ancestral domain pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples rights Act (IPRA) wherein companies planning to put up development projects must first secure the consent of the affected IPs. By HENT