KAPANGAN, Benguet – The Indigenous peoples living in the remote villages in the municipalities of Kibungan and Kapangan made another milestone to share in the country’s search for stable and reliable power to at least curb the expected power shortage in the future by giving their consent for the construction of the 60megawatt hydro power plant here with the hope that it will also bring prosperity and improved their lives.
During the preliminary ground breaking ceremony last Monday, at the municipal ground here Kibungan Mayor Benito Siadto said that with the construction of the hydro power plant their dream of a good road to be linked with other road networks especially his constituents living in Barangay Badeo could now be realized.
The investors, the Cordillera Hydroelectric Power Corporation (COHECO) of the hydro power plant will build an access road leading to the site of the power plant and will also be used by the local residents as a major route to transport their agricultural products.
“The opening of a road in that area will need a lot of money and the local government can’t provide the needed funds and it will take a long way of waiting before it will materialized” Siadto added.
With its rich natural resources, Kibungan tried mining in the past but in return it failed to improve the economic status of their community which is now their battle cry,” no to mining.”
Siadto expressed his gratitude to the COHECO and the investors to this project for properly consulting his constituents.
“The success of this project will be their benchmark in welcoming other investors in their municipality,” Siadto said.
“The memorandum of agreement must be followed properly for the protection of our area so that the implementation of the project will benefit us especially the community of Badeo,” Siadto added.
Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan who led the preliminary ground breaking ceremony said that the hydro project is a breakthrough for the people of the two municipalities. He cited the benefits of this project like employment, increasing the revenue of barangays and the municipalities through tax generated from the operation of the power plant.
“To the oppositors, should we deprive this people of opportunity, hydro project doesn’t destroy the environment it is the reverse of mining,” Fongwan added as he challenge the oppositors of this project to study what are they opposing.
With the coming of COHECO the governor hopes that other investors will come as he reiterated that during the implementation of the project it must be ensured that 100 percent no accident and safety of the people must be the top priority.
NCIP Commissioner Zenaida Brigida Hamada –Pawid who witnessed the ground breaking invited the oppositors to join with the people of Kapangan and be part of development.
Pawid challenged the IPs to be united and set an example to the rest of Benguet in confronting investors through dialogues and proper consultation.
“Benguet is left out in the sharing of the benefits of their resources,” Pawid added.
The COHECO was able to get the consent of the IPs for the project by painstakingly conducting series of consultations in Kibungan and Kapangan.
Lawyer Jimboy Atonen, COHECO legal officer, said the hydro power project has a total project cost of P10 billion and will be constructed in a period of four and a half years.
He said the contractors of the project will start hiring at least 100 personnel for the ground works within the next several weeks before increasing their work force to around 500 qualified local residents once the project will be in full blast construction.
The hydro plant’s intake weir is located in barangay Cuba, Kapangan while its power house and head will be situated in barangay Badeo. Kibungan.
Atonen explained the construction of the 27-kilometer road from Cuba, Kapangan up to Badeo, Kibungan which has an initial budget of P1 billion will be done simultaneous with the construction of the power plant so that it will be completed right in time for the operation of the power plant.
COHECO was able to secure the free and prior informed consent of the 15 ancestral domain communities in Kapangan and the 6 ancestral domain communities in Kibungan which will be directly affected by the project that resulted to the granting of the certification pre-condition issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) that gave the ‘green light’ for the renewable energy project.
By Joseph B. Manzano and Dexter A. See