June 14, 2024

Officials and indigenous peoples of Bakun, Benguet peacefully implemented the cease and desist order of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera on the three hydropower plants of Hedcor situated in their ancestral domain.
Local officials led by Mayor Billy Raymundo led the serving of the order after they received a go-signal from NCIP-CAR Director Marlon Bosantog through a letter on June 29. 
As of June 30, the 5.9-megawatt Ferdinand L. Singit hydro, 3.6-MW Lon-oy hydro, and 2.4-MW Lower Labay hydro have ceased operation.
The CDO issued on June 22 came after the IPs refused to grant their consent to Hedcor to continue its operation in the municipality after the 25-year memorandum of agreement among parties had lapsed.
Bosantog said Hedcor continued with its operation even after it received the CDO on June 22.
Hedcor said in a statement it continued its operation based on the advice letter it received on June 25 from the Department of Energy.
“We advise you to continue operating the Bakun hydro power plants in compliance with the law, Wholesale Electricity Spot Market rules, and the Philippine Grid Code,” the DOE letter to Hedcor stated.
DOE said it is mandated “to ensure the quality, reliability, security, and affordability of the supply of electric power especially during the health pandemic.”
The DOE letter stated Hedcor’s facilities in Bakun are already operational in the Luzon grid, which ensures integrity of the power system.
But lawyer Jerry Marave, who represents the IPs and local government, said a court order, not a letter from the DOE, could supersede the CDO, adding that the letter was not an instruction but a simple advice to Hedcor.
Hedcor, meanwhile, cited the standing status quo ante order issued by the Regional Trial Court of Buguias, which was a result of an earlier mutual commitment between Hedcor and Bakun, represented by Atty. Sunny G. Sacla, to maintain the uninterrupted operations of the plants. Such commitment was not recognized by the ancestral domain claimants and the current local administration.
“Unless DOE expressly states in writing and confirms that their letter sent on June 25 addressed to Hedcor to continue operations is simply a reminder, we will treat DOE’s letter as an order for Hedcor to keep operating our plants in Bakun.  However, we are forced to stop operations, with the threat posed by the situation. As much as we want to continue delivering power to the Luzon grid, we don’t want to compromise the safety of the community and our personnel,” Hedcor’s Vice President for Operations and Maintenance Leo Lungay said.
The NCIP-CAR said Hedcor could reapply for another chance to get a certificate of pre-condition from the ICCs/IPs of Bakun after six months.
In case the company reapplies, it will restart the FPIC process with the ancestral domain holders. – Ofelia C. Empian