January 29, 2023

Hedcor, Inc. said it is saddened  by the decision of indigenous peoples of Bakun, Benguet who issued a no consent resolution, which disallowed the company to continue operating its mini-hydro power plants in the municipality. 

The Bakun Indigenous Tribe Organization recently issued a resolution of non-consent due to the expired memorandum of agreement with Hedcor, expired business permit, and non-issuance of certificate precondition of the residents.

“Having been in the community for 30 years, we are saddened by this turn of events. We understand from the resolution that this has been triggered by the petition for certiorari that the company had to file with the court to protect our plants from being unduly shut down,” Hedcor said in a press statement.

In the resolution, elders of the community said they were dismayed when the company filed cases against town officials led by Mayor Billy Raymundo, who they claimed is just standing for the rights of the residents.

Hedcor is in the process of renewing its business permit, which expired last March 31 but the local government withheld its issuance pending the signing of a new MOA between the company and the community.

Citing an opinion of the Department of the Interior and Local Government to support its position, Hedcor maintains that a MOA is not a requirement in the issuance of a business permit.

“In the spirit of fairness, we find that a free and reasonable commercial negotiation is not possible with the undue threat to our operations brought about by the withholding of our business permit,” Hedcor added.

The negotiation for a new MOA has reached a deadlock, as the previous dialogues did not yield favorable results for both parties.

The company’s 1991 MOA with Bakun has expired in 2016 and a series of negotiations for the new MOA started in 2019. The community and the company signed a MOA in October 2019, but this was revoked March this year by elders of the community citing irregularities in the negotiations. 

Raymundo said they are asking for a status quo where Hedcor may continue operation but he insists that the negotiation for the new MOA with members of the ancestral domain and municipality will continue.

The mayor added they have been asking the company to settle its 2020 obligations with the community first before they could issue a business permit.

“We never asked for a higher or additional offer. We wanted the same amount to be given to us, which is one percent for the barangay and two percent for the municipality,” he said.

He said the two percent computation for the municipality translates to P5 million to P6M share, which was not approved this time by Hedcor. The company has offered P500,000 for the municipality instead.  

The mayor also clarified he has not issued a cease and desist order against the operation of the hydro plants, which he said is presently undergoing maintenance.

“Hedcor is continuing its operation even with an expired MOA. It is unfair for us to give their business permit when they have not settled with the community yet,” he said. 

Hedcor said it is willing to continue to work with the community and has appealed to leaders of the community to support it in processing its certification of precondition through the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

“Hedcor remains committed to supporting the Bakun community, the same way we are providing our other host communities across the country with benefits that are reasonable and sustainable,” the company stated. – Ofelia C. Empian