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BOKOD, Benguet – The SN Aboitiz Power Benguet, Inc. (SNAP) stated that it has been providing benefits to the indigenous communities that host the operation of the Ambuclao and Binga hydroelectric power plants located in this town and nearby Itogon since 2008.
In a press statement, SNAP Benguet said that the benefits provided to the indigenous peoples are in the form of annual funding provided under the so-called community investment program of the company for priority projects identified by the indigenous peoples themselves.
Further, the company added that it also funds the sustainability and special projects implemented in partnership with the indigenous peoples.
The renewable energy company claimed that its continuing commitment for the upliftment of indigenous peoples within its areas of operation is part of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) entered into by the firm and Ambuclao and Binga indigenous peoples in line with the privatization and transfer of the State-owned Ambuclao and Binga power plants to SNAP Benguet.
Based on the data released by the company, a total of P69 million for community development, special, sustainability and sponsorship projects have been provided to the indigenous peoples out of the Ambuclao and Binga operations over the past several years.
According to the statement, the MOAs to provide benefits to the indigenous peoples were the results of the consultations and dialogues conducted by the company with them when the power plants were subjected to privatization by the national government.
SNAP Benguet argued that based on Section 56 of Republic Act (8371) or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), Ambuclao and Binga already have existing property rights in the Bokod and Itogon municipalities as the power plants were constructed in 1956 and 1960, respectively, prior to the effectivity of the IPRA.
Earlier, the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) issued a show cause order to some 6 big companies, including SNAP Benguet, that are operating in the different parts of the region to explain their alleged failure to pay royalties to their host and neighboring communities.
The NCIP-CAR gave the concerned companies 15 days from receipt of the show cause order to submit their explanations and justifications on their alleged failure to pay to their host and neighboring communities the royalties that they must pay to the same pursuant to the pertinent provisions of the IPRA.
The agency will base its actions on the matter depending on the explanations that will be provided by the companies in compliance to the show cause order.
Under the IPRA, companies exploiting, utilizing and developing the resources within the ancestral domains of indigenous peoples must pay to the same the agreed royalty for the said activities for the communities to use for their own development pursuant to the Community Royalty Development Program agreed upon with the company.