May 19, 2024

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera has issued a cease and desist order to Hedcor, Inc. to discontinue the operation of its three hydro power plants in Bakun, Benguet.

The CDO issued on June 22 covers the 5.9-megawatt Ferdinand L. Singit hydro, 3.6-MW Lon-oy hydro, and 2.4-MW Lower Labay hydro.  

The company was given five days to wind up operation and install safety protocols so as not to endanger the community.

“It is expected for you to completely cease operation at five days after receipt hereof,” the CDO signed by NCIP-CAR Director Marlon Bosantog’s order states.  

Hedcor and the indigenous cultural communities/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 (FPIC) 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.

The ICCs/IPs later passed a resolution asking NCIP to issue a CDO on the company’s operation.

Bosantog informed Hedcor a team from NCIP has validated the resolution of the ICCs/IPs revoking the MOA and the resolution of non-consent.

“The result of the separate validation clearly shows the true sentiments of the ICCs/IPs against the renewal of the power plants and their dissent to the earlier MOA that was executed,” he said.

He also sent a letter to Hedcor in May reminding the company of the final decision of the host communities to reject the power plant operations and its obligation to turn over the parcels of land hosting the three power plants.

He said the NCIP en banc has deliberated on the resolution of the IPs and has resolved to grant the request of the community. The commission also authorized Bosantog to issue the CDO.

The CDO shall remain in force and effect and shall only be lifted upon submission of proof by Hedcor that it secured the certificate of precondition and FPIC of the host ICCs/IPs of Bakun as required by RA 8371, the order added.

Hedcor, in a statement, said it is saddened by the NCIP-Cordillera’s decision to shut down its Bakun operations despite all efforts to come to a dialogue with the ICCs/IPs and the NCIP. 

“In spite of the issuance of the CDO, Hedcor will continue to actively reach out to the community for a dialogue or the customary tongtongan between the company and the Bakun IPs, with the guidance of NCIP,” it stated.

The company looks forward to continuing the benefits that the Bakun community is currently receiving from the generation of the plants. – Ofelia C. Empian