Issue of November 11, 2018
Mt. Province

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BENECO urges RDC to remind agencies to uphold IP rights
by Jane B. Cadalig

The board of directors of the Benguet Electric Cooperative wants the Cordillera Regional Development Council to remind concerned government agencies to respect the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) or indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) by calling for a halt to the indiscriminate issuance of permits to private companies that intend to pursue projects using the natural resources of areas covered by ancestral domain titles.

In a resolution, the Beneco board has asked the RDC to remind the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to exercise its mandate in promoting the interests of the IPs in the region whose rights were violated by the wanton issuance of water rights and service contracts by government offices in favor of rich and profit-oriented firms wanting to tap the resources of the ICCs in the Cordillera.

The Beneco board cited the indiscriminate issuance by the National Water Resources Board of water permits to private firms, giving them the exclusive right to use and develop the natural resource, in violation of the IPs’ right to manage the use and development of their natural resources.

It also said this scenario is the same with the Department of Energy, which issued and continues to issue renewable energy contracts to profit-oriented entities.

The board said the issuances of water permits and service contracts by the NWRB and the DOE, respectively, are the major factors that prevent electric cooperatives from tapping the water sources in their franchise areas because the rights to develop these resources, even if these are within the ICCs, were already awarded to private firms.

In Benguet, the Beneco board said the service contract issued to a private firm over the water of Kabayan River was made without the consent of the IPs in the town, which now delays the otherwise smooth implementation of a mini-hydro plant in the area by Beneco, in partnership with the IPs.

The board said it has learned that the NCIP has issued certificates of ancestral domain titles to all the 13 towns of Benguet, which can be gleaned from the memorandum of agreement signed between the agency, the provincial government, and the National Power Corporation in relation to the construction of the San Roque Dam.

“The indiscriminate and unlawful issuances by the NWRB and the DOE of water rights, service contracts, and other types of permits to large corporations that give them exclusive right to use and develop natural resources deprives the IPs/ICCs the exercise of their vested rights to manage the use and development of resources in their domains and to just and equitable share from the benefits derived from their natural resources,” the Beneco board resolution stated.

The board added that electric coops like Beneco can efficiently fulfill their mandates to provide affordable power if they could develop renewable energy sources, which they could hardly implement at the moment because of NWRB and DOE’s continued issuance of water rights and permits to large business companies in areas covered by ancestral domain titles.

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