March 1, 2024

Stakeholders of the ancestral domain of Bokod, Benguet passed a resolution of non-consent on the operation of the 105-megawatt Ambuclao Dam by SN-Aboitiz Power Benguet, Inc. in Barangay Ambuclao.
The domain stakeholders stated the community Resolution 1-2022 was approved and passed during the Bokod community assembly on Dec. 16 following the conduct of least 15 negotiations between them and SNAPB as part of the conduct of free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process.  
The resolution described as “pitiful and exploitative” the company’s final offer to pay 3.25 centavos per kilowatt hour inclusive of the existing benefits it provides as against the company’s average annual production of 289,000,000 kwh.   
“It is a mere pittance given the more than P2 billion annual revenues the company generates. It is far too low from the nine centavo per kilowatt hour royalty that the community considers as its equitable share in the operation of the Ambuklao hydroelectric power plant computed against the actual energy production of the company as can be verified on reliable records,” the resolution stated.
Also, the resolution cited the company’s refusal to pay reasonable royalty for its past operation since starting its energy production up to the present. It also noted the refusal of the company to formally file any application for the issuance of certificate of precondition, which should have preceded FPIC negotiations.
It stated, “the act shows that SNAPB does not fully recognize the rights of the indigenous peoples of Bokod over their ancestral domain…thus making their participation in the just concluded negotiations lacking in good faith.” 
The stakeholders have requested the local government of Bokod to withhold the issuance of a business permit to SNAPB for lack of certification precondition, and the Department of Energy not to issue any energy service contract to the firm or to recall if there was a contract already issued.
The resolution also requested the National Water Resources Board not to issue water permit to the SNAPB; the Department of Environment and Natural Resources not to enter into a user’s lease or similar agreement with the SNAPB for the use of the Ambuclao Dam reservoir, the surrounding forest and related natural resources.  
Congress was also urged to conduct an inquiry on the operation of SNAPB of the Ambuclao Dam for over a decade without paying any royalty to the affected indigenous peoples of Bokod.
It was only in 2021 that the company started the conduct of FPIC when the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples annulled the earlier certification exempting Aboitiz from conducting FPIC.
The SN-Aboitiz was given a clearance from conducting FPIC by the NCIP in 2008 when it took over the operation of Ambuklao and Binga hydroelectric power plants from the National Power Corporation.
Then NCIP chairman Eugenio Insigne said the SN-Aboitiz will simply take over the operation of the existing plants and facilities that will be rehabilitated and no new expansions will be introduced, which would require FPIC. 
In 2021, the NCIP Benguet Provincial Office recommended to then NCIP-Cordillera Director Marlon Bosantog to appeal the revocation of the clearance “for being contrary to the mandate of the NCIP.” The NCIP then released the annulment of the 2008 memo.
Under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, the company is required to secure a certification precondition through the FPIC process, which shall be facilitated by the NCIP.
Copies of the resolution of non-consent was given to the SNAPBI “to prepare its peaceful and orderly exit” from Bokod, as well as NCIP offices and DOE for the immediate withdrawal of the operation of the company. – Ofelia C. Empian