KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Members of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) validation team called on concerned indigenous peoples (IPs) and IP leaders in the seven barangays of this town to cooperate with the scheduled investigation of the alleged irregularities on the conduct of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) for the 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project of the controversial Coheco Badeo Corporation by the third week of September, this month.
NCIP sources said that the suspension of the FPIC issued by regional director Roland Calde will still be in full force and effect until the validation team shall have completed their investigation on the complaints lodged against the manipulation done by benefactors of the project that resulted to the questionable results of the process.
“We appeal to those aggrieved IPs and IP leaders to cooperate with the members of the validation team who will be going around the seven barangays to investigate the complained irregularities in the conduct of the FPIC process so that we will be able to come out with an objective recommendation on what will be the next action of our office in the said case,” the source stressed.
The NCIP validation will be in the town by the third week of this month and will go around the sitios and barangays to gather important facts to prove the alleged irregularities committed by the proponent, the members of the FPIC team, among others, that deprived the IPs of their right to exercise their self-determination and air their sentiments against the environmentally-critical hydro project.
Concerned IP leaders welcomed the investigation by the members of the NCIP validation team on the blatant irregularities in the FPIC process for the pump storage hydro project, saying it will be a chance for the IPs to ventilate their issues and concerns which were disregarded by the members of the FPIC team in violation of their rights to practice their customary laws in deciding whether or not to favour the ambitious project.
In the case of barangay Badeo, the members of the FPIC team disregarded the signed resolution of landowners that stated their vehement objection to the project, and instead gave weight to the yes vote of the pre-selected council of elders that resulted to the declaration of the head of the team as persona non grata in various sitios of the barangay.
The IP leaders criticized some officials of Coheco Badeo Corporation for continuously belittling their intelligence by claiming that they did not understand the contents of the documents they were asked to sign when the manifesto was written in Kankana-ey while the resolution that was written in English was explained to the learned landowners.
The IPs also vowed to bring to the attention of the validation team the harassments and machinations being done by some barangay officials, a municipal councilor and a municipal department head who seem to have interest in the project because they are allegedly receiving huge allowances from the project proponent in clear violation of civil service laws, rules and regulations, thus, once proven to be true, appropriate charges should be filed against them to teach them a lesson not to moonlight.