June 17, 2024

The indigenous peoples of Bakun, Benguet have reiterated their request for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to issue a cease and desist order against the operation of the hydropower plants of Hedcor, Inc. in the municipality.

“It is also what our elders want. So, we are asking the NCIP to help us since it is the agency that could decide on the issue,” said Bakun Mayor Billy Raymundo.

NCIP Chair Allen Capuyan (commissioner for Southern Eastern Mindanao) along with Commissioners Gaspar Cayat (Cordillera and Region 1), Jennifer Sibbug-Las (Central Mindanao), and Roland Rivera (Region 3 and rest of Luzon) have traveled to Bakun on June 1 to know the concerns of the ancestral domain holders during consultation on June 1.  

Bakun Indigenous Tribe Organization (BITO) chairperson Mario Morales said Hedcor lied to the IPs in the course of the creation of the new memorandum of agreement with the company.

“We were about to negotiate for a high percentage for the ancestral domain but the company told us to lessen it since it has a different MOA with the municipal government, which did not push through,” said Morales, who was one of the signatories of a MOA signed in 1991.

Hedcor and the indigenous peoples reached a deadlock on their negotiations as the company’s 25-year memorandum of agreement with the community expired in 2016.

A new MOA for the free prior and informed consent was signed in October 2019. But in March this year, the elders passed a resolution revoking the MOA citing irregularities in their negotiations with Hedcor.

On April 21, BITO and the Bakun council of elders also submitted a resolution urging the NCIP to issue a cease and desist order against Hedcor’s operations within their domain.

These power plants are the 5.9-megawatt Ferdinand L. Singit hydro, 3.6-MW Lon-oy hydro, and 2.4-MW Lower Labay hydro.   

NCIP-Cordillera Director Marlon Bosantog said stopping the operation of Hedcor would not only affect Bakun but also the entire country since the company is one of the producers of renewable energy.

Capuyan, for his part, said he recognized the stand of the IPs against the company but encouraged them to listen to the appeal of Hedcor.

He said one of the programs of NCIP is encouraging companies to present the projection of their financial income for the communities to understand.

The NCIP en banc, composed of seven commissioners, would deliberate on the issue to come up with a decision on the request of the IPs of Bakun. – Ofelia C. Empian