La Trinidad, Benguet – The Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) ordered the controversial COHECO Badeo Corporation to cease and desist from conducting activities relative to its proposed 500-megawatt ump storage hydro project, including the conduct of feasibility studies, drilling, boring tests and rock sampling in the different corners of its project site in barangay Badeo. Kibungan, without undergoing the mandatory free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process as mandated by Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) supplemented by NCIP Administrative order (AO) No. 3, series of 2012 and by the customary laws of indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities.
In his 2-page letter to How on Kim alias Larry, COHECO Badeo Corporation Chairman of the board, lawyer Roland P. Calde, NCIP-CAR Regional Director, claimed it has come to the attention of the agency that the company has allegedly intruded to the ancestral domain of Kibungan, Benguet and is planning to conduct geo-technical works for its proposed hydro power project without securing the consent of the affected indigenous peoples which is in gross violations of the IPRA and other related rules and regulations promulgated by the NCIP for such purpose.
“This office reserves the right to bring necessary civil and criminal suits and actions for any and all causes of action arising from unlawful or unauthorized intrusion into any of the ancestral domains. Failure and refusal to comply with this cease and desist order shall likewise prompt this office to file any available action, including actions to the offices of the Department of Energy, Department of Foreign Affairs and the Bureau of Immigration,”Calde stressed.
However, the NCIP-CAR official admitted before the issuance of the cease and desist order, the agency was already able to receive a copy of COHECO Badeo Corporation’s application for the issuance of the required certificate of pre-condition for the proposed 500-megawatt pump storage hydro power project situated in Badeo, Kibungan town.
In order for the NCIP-CAR to give due course to the certificate of pre-condition application of the company, Calde required COHECO Badeo Corporation to submit pertinent documents such as, but not limited to, endorsement from appropriate regulating agencies, profile of the project proponent, nature and purpose of the project, final or complete feasibility study of the project and feasibility of the transmission lines, including systems design, solar layout plan, location of the proposed project with an indicative map showing the names of sitios and barangays that will be affected, indicative map including the route of transmission lines from sub-station to grid, tapping points, required right-of-way, sub-station layout, and capacity load.
Further, the company was also required to submit to the NCIP-CAR its general development plan, preliminary hydroelectric facility designs, abstract of proposed project describing the size, pace, reversibility and scope, specific duration of the proposed project, preliminary assessment of the likely economic, social, cultural and environmental effects, including potential risks and how this will be addressed, indicative budget of the proposed project, prolife of persons to be involved in the implementation of the project, articles of incorporation and by-laws, latest audited financial statement, additional proof of financial capacity, latest general information sheet, affidavit of undertaking that applicant or proponent shall abide by the FPIC guidelines and other requirements and shall shoulder the cost of the process, environmental impact assessment of the proposed project and the transmission lines, environmental compliance certificate, copy of hydro power service contract and undertaking by the proponent written in the language spoken and understood by the community concerned, that it shall commit itself to full disclosure of records and information relevant to the plan, program, project or activity that would allow the community to full access to records, documents, material information and facilities.
Paul Bagano, COHECO Badeo Corporation chief executive officer, disclosed the company already complied with the cease and desist order considering that their personnel will be demolishing their campsite in Badeo and that the drilling machines that were initially based in Bacnotan, La Union ready for transport to Badeo, Kibungan via Santol, La Union were already demobilized.
“There is no their way for us to do but to comply with the cease and desist order but in the meantime, we already submitted our application for FPIC for the project,”Bagano stated in his text message.
Concerned villagers expressed their gratitude to the NCIP-CAR for the timely issuance of the cease and desist order because it was evident that the company already intruded to the ancestral domain of Kibungan without the consent of the indigenous peoples when it hid its initial drilling in the area and the conduct of theparcellary survey as well as the building of its campsites.
According to them, the timely exposure of the alleged illegal activities of the company by their fellow land owners should serve as a wakeup call for indigenous peoples to be vigilant on future development activities that will be done by other proponents in their respective areas of jurisdiction.