KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Concerned indigenous peoples (IP) leaders questioned the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) for its alleged failure to implement a directive from the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) mandating the conduct of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process for the water rights application of the Coheco Badeo Corporation for its ambitious 500 megawatt pump storage project in Barangay Badeo.
IP leaders who attended the initial hearing of the NWRB for the company’s water rights application in Manila were able to uncover the existence of an endorsement from the NWRB directed to the NCIP-CAR for the conduct of the required FPIC process prior to the consideration of the said application for the affected IPs to give their consent over the same.
“We suspect that there is really a consolidated effort between company officials and their cohorts in the NCIP-CAR to cut short the prescribed processes and hide some important matters from us so that they will be able to get our consent and subsequently sell our consent and our resources to an unknown company for their own personal advantage. We are elated to learn that despite their efforts to railroad the process, the prevailing circumstances seem not to be in their advantage,” the sources stressed.
The NWRB scheduled another hearing this coming February 2018 to continue the presentation of the position papers of the concerned parties on the water rights application of the local power corporation.
The sources pointed out that during the conduct of the community consultative assemblies in the seven barangays, the proponent and the FPIC team never bothered to discuss the water rights application of the company and its impact to the existing water source of the people, which is supposed to be one of the important issues to be tackled.
According to the sources, company officials and their cohorts in the different government agencies are trying their best to railroad the process for the required consent will be issued in their favour the soonest. Allegedly, the incumbent officials are in a hurry to sell the company to another waiting in the sidelines for its officials to enrich themselves at the expense of the IPs, who will be the ones to suffer the negative effects of the ambitious project.
Earlier, the NCIP-CAR ordered the replacement of the FPIC team leader and is now scouting for a new head who will administer the conduct of a special community consultative assembly in the presence of all the affected IPs of Badeo, for them to decide whether or not to give their consent for the project after recognizing the fact that the planned pump storage project has actually created factions among the IPs.
The concerned IP leaders called on the NCIP-CAR to mandate the company to go back to the barangays and conduct the required FPIC process for the water rights application of the company so people will be aware of the impact of the use by the company of the water from their existing water sources that could result to the depletion of the available sources of water in the locality.