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KIBUNGAN, Benguet – The Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) underscored that the first and second assemblies for the on-going free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process relative to the 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project in Badeo being proposed by the CohecoBadeo Corporation cannot be combined in one sitting to allow the indigenous peoples (IPs) to have the time to study the advantages and disadvantages of the renewable energy project.
Lawyer Roland P. Calde, NCIP-CAR regional director, belied earlier reports that the first and mandatory second community assemblies for the FPIC process of the project will be combined in a single day pursuant to the notices that were distributed to the different barangays by the FPIC team, citing that, although the first assembly is dedicated for the FPIC team to discuss the IP rights as enshrined in Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and other related laws, there is always a possibility that the issues that should be discussed during the second assembly will be touched by the concerned parties.
Under existing FPIC guidelines, the first assembly of the IPs in the different barangays will be devoted to the FPIC team to discuss the IP rights, benefits and privileges and other related laws while during the second assembly, it will be the proponent of the project that will discuss the concept of the project, its technical and financial aspects, among others, and it will be the time for the IPs to raise whatever issues they would like to argue relative to the project.
Earlier, the NCIP FPIC team scheduled the first community assemblies in the different barangays of the municipality from June 15 to July 3, 2017.
“There will always be a second community assembly in the barangays where the first assembly was done. We cannot cut short the process by combining the first and second assemblies in one sitting because it will violate our existing FPIC guidelines. We want the IPs to be able to internalize the advantages and disadvantages of the project before they will be allowed to decide whether or not to endorse the project,” Calde stressed.
The NCIP-CAR official explained combining the first and second assemblies in one sitting is only allowed when the project to be implemented is a government project that was actually solicited by the community which will be implemented in their ancestral domain as enshrined in the FPIC guidelines.
He urged the IPs of Kibungan to seriously study the advantages and disadvantages of the huge project before deciding because their decision will definitely affect the upcoming generation of IPs from the municipality, saying that the IPs must decide conscientiouslyly so that they will not be blamed by future generations once they make a big mistake in deciding to favour or reject the proposed renewable energy project in their domain.