KBUNGAN, Benguet – The Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) ordered a 20-day suspension of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process for the proposed 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project of the Coheco Badeo Corporation after finding initial merits to the numerous complaints lodged by concerned indigenous peoples (IP) leaders regarding the alleged actuations of some FPIC team members that seem to favour the proponents.
Lawyer Roland Calde, NCIP-CAR regional director, said the 20-day suspension which took effect last August 23, 2017 could be extended depending on the merits of the complaints by the IP leaders and the company’s offer to the IPs as benefits once the project will push through.
Pending before the NCIP-CAR are various petitions from concerned IPs in Badeo that questioned the legitimacy of the concensus building that was done in their place considering that the written opposition of the landowners was set aside, the resolution of the landowners opposing the pump storage hydro project, the manifesto that declared NCIP FPIC team leaders lawyer Severino Lumiked as persona non grata for his alleged manipulation of the FPIC process that saw the votes of the council of elders favouring the project admits the opposition of the IPs.
Calde added the agency also wants to know from the proponent the royalty and other benefits which it will provide the IPs considering that the issue was never discussed during the community consultative assemblies, thus, the company has not been allegedly transparent in presenting to the IPs their supposed benefits that could have served as the minimum offer before proceeding to the negotiation proper.
“We do not want that the IPs will be again left in limbo on what will be their minimum benefits once the project will be realized. The matter was never discussed during the organized assemblies that is why we want to make sure that the IPs stand to benefit from the project or else we will not allow the company to proceed with the negotiation process ,” Calde stressed.
He added the company should have been transparent during the assemblies and should have volunteered the information on the benefits and privileges to be derived by the IPs because for them to wait for the negotiation process before divulging the IP benefits seems to be doubtful, thus, the IPs will be again at the losing end of the deal like what happened in other similar projects regionwide.
Earlier, lawyer Cyrus Calaya also petitioned the NCIP-CAR to suspend the FPIC proceedings for the ambitious hydro project due to alleged irregularities in the conduct of the said process which is grossly disadvantageous to the IPs who are the owners of the ancestral domain that will be affected by the project.
Calde pointed out that apart from the need to conduct a judicious review of related documents, conduct of validation and investigation activities is indispensable, thus, he constituted a validation team to conduct validation and investigation anent the complaints of Leonero Joseph and Atty. Calaya for alleged FPIC process irregularities.
He required the FPIC team to immediately schedule a meeting with the project proponent for the latter to present a comprehensive proposal or offer of detailed benefit sharing with the IPs and that the presentation of the benefit sharing must be immediately done but it will in no way be considered a presentation to the concerned IPs. By HENT