December 10, 2022

Leaders and elders of indigenous peoples in Kabugao, Apayao are standing firm on their earlier decision rejecting the proposal of Pan Pacific Renewable Power Philippines Corporation (PPRPPC) to build a hydropower plant in Barangay Waga.

The proposed hydropower plant will be built along the Apayao-Abulog River covering Barangay Balag in Pudtol and Barangay Waga in Kabugao. The proposed dam covering 887 hectares will be able to store 158 million cubic meters of water.

In a resolution passed last month, around 168 IP leaders and elders reiterated that they are rejecting “once and for all” PPRPPC’s proposed construction of a 150-megawatt hydropower plant. The signatories also declared as null and void all related negotiations and memorandum of agreement with another IP group.

The signatories have long rejected the proposal the first time the project was presented to them by a representative of the company and the Department of Energy in 2014.

Between that time until the latter part of 2018, various consultations facilitated by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples have been conducted by the DOE and PPRPPC. In January 2019, they formally rejected the proposal.

But on February of the same year, the PPRPPC filed a motion for reconsideration, which was granted by the NCIP.

In March 2019, a group representing other IPs who will be affected if the power plant operates submitted a position paper saying they are open to negotiate with PPRPPC.

But the signatories in the resolution recently submitted to the NCIP said the resolution of non-consent should have taken final effect in Sept. 26, 2019 but the NCIP continued to facilitate consultations.

NCIP-Cordillera Director Marlon Bosantog said there is nothing irregular with the commission allowing negotiations to continue. He said in the consultation process to obtain the community’s free, prior, and informed consent, all of those who will be directly or indirectly affected by the project must be consulted.

Bosantog said in this issue when authorized representatives were asked to vote for or against negotiation, 86 voted in favor and 42 voted against.

He added the signing of MOA does not mean that PPRPPC can already operate.

“The concerned IPs and the company have been negotiating for six years. The votes showed that there are those who are open to negotiating with the company,” Bosantog told the Courier.

He, however, said the negotiation is only a component of the entire process that the company needs to fulfill before it can finally proceed with its project.

Bosantog said after signing of the MOA, the NCIP-CAR will have to validate the MOA on the ground to make sure the signatories understood what they signed, then will be reviewed by its Legal Affairs Division at the central office before submission to Commission en banc for confirmation. During en banc deliberations, representatives of the affected IPs will be invited for briefing or interview about the MOA.

If the NCIP confirms the MOA, Bosantog said the company will still have to obtain permits from various government regulatory bodies such as the DOE, Environment Management Bureau, and the local government unit. – Rimaliza A. Opiña