Issue of December 3, 2017

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NCIP lifts suspension for 500MW hydro in Kibungan
by Ofelia C. Empian

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera has ordered the resumption of the conduct of the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process for the proposed 500-megawatt hydropower plant in Kibungan, Benguet.

In a memorandum order dated Nov. 27, NCIP-CAR Director Roland Calde has lifted the suspension of the FPIC process stating that the earlier complaints against the FPIC team leader and the Coheco Badeo Corporation for their alleged violation of the FPIC guidelines were “dismissed for lack of merit and for insufficiency of evidence, respectively.”

Calde added that the internal community issues regarding the customary consensus building and decision-making process and its application is referred to the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative of Barangay Badeo and the IPMR of Kibungan.

“In response to the allegations of non-participation by some of the ICCs/IPs of Barangay Badeo during the CCA1 (Consultative Community Assembly) and CCA2 conducted on June 14, 2017, the undersigned deems it suitable to grant the conduct of a special community assembly,” Calde said.

He said the special community assembly shall be the venue for the information education communication campaign on the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, the presentation of the FPIC process guidelines and presentation of the Coheco of its proposed 500 MW project.

The project proponent will also present the benefits the province; municipal government and host communities will get from the project.

Earlier, Coheco Badeo has been reported to fund the construction of roads and bridges leading to the project sites. And during operational stage, barangay roads, foot paths, footbridges, irrigation and portable water system, improvement of school sites and daycare centers, construction of hospital and health stations, establishment of communication and information center, including sports center may be constructed or established, as part of company’s corporate social responsibility. 

The project will infuse P29.6 billion in investment, according to Coheco Badeo Corp., adding that it will generate an estimate of 400 to 600 job opportunities during construction phase while 40 to 60 personnel will be maintained during operation.

The company said the share of local governments shall be released directly to the local treasuries within five days after the end of each quarter.

Meanwhile, in the latest NCIP order,  Allan Allatis and Concepcion Dasalla were designated as additional members to supplement the FPIC team with Allatis leading the team.

Allatis will replace Atty. Severino Lumiqued due to the “strained relations between some IPs of Badeo” with the latter. 

“However, the latter, as Provincial Legal Officer of the NCIP-Benguet, is still required to assist the FPIC team in drafting and finalizing the memorandum of agreement (between the project proponent and community residents,” Calde stated.

The FPIC team led by Allatis shall then conduct and facilitate the special assembly for the community of Barangay Badeo; to conduct the customary resolution of the internal community conflict as facilitated by the IPMRs of the barangay and the municipality; and to proceed with the negotiation of the terms and conditions of the MOA for the whole domain of Kibungan in accordance with the FPIC guidelines.

“The FPIC team is hereby reminded to advise the concerned ICCs/IPs during the assembly that even if they have given their consent to the proposed project, they have all the rights to withdraw/retract said consent at any stage of the FPIC process and even after the issuance of the certificate of precondition,” Calde said.

Earlier, the NCIP investigation team led by Atty. Harriet Abyadang was formed to look into the complaint filed by Leonoro Joseph, has recommended that the complaint filed against Lumiqued be dismissed for lack of merit while the complaint against the project proponent for alleged violation of the FPIC guidelines be dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.

On declaration of Lumiqued as persona non grata, the punong barangay of Badeo made a disclaimer that the act does not reflect the general sentiment of the residents of Badeo and the same is not an official act of the barangay government unit but by a concerned group only.

The investigation team also recommended to the NCIP regional office that the issues relative to the customary consensus-building and decision-making process and its application be referred to the customary conflict resolution of the Kankana-ey IP community of Badeo considering that the issue is endemic and is internal to the community.

The move to refer the matter to the IPs is also in observance of the primacy of customary law – through which the community shall decide on what actions to take thereafter.

This will also put an end to supposed complaints of affected IP concerning the FPIC process and other issues and concerns which the project proponent has to answer in detail before any final agreement is signed by the parties concerned.

The planned construction of the 500MW project came at a time when President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 30, which created the Energy Investment Coordinating Council to streamline procedures affecting energy projects.

EO 30 saw the need to construct additional power plants to provide sufficient available electricity capacity of the appropriate power plant category to accelerate and promote rapid economic growth in an open and competitive power market environment.

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