May 25, 2024

■  Rimaliza A. Opiña 

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera has written officials of the Itogon Indigenous Peoples Organization (IIPO) to liquidate the P22 million the group received from two companies that have submitted applications for certificate precondition in the ancestral domain of Itogon, Benguet.

In an undated letter addressed to IIPO president Rosita Bargaso and IIPO secretary Daniel Dacuyag, NCIP-Cordillera Director Roland Calde directed the group to submit separate liquidation reports for the P16.5M the IIPO received from Itogon Suyoc Resources Inc. and P6M from Aboitiz Power Corporation from the operation of Binga Dam.

Calde’s letter is his response to the letter-request of six residents from sitios Dalicno, Ampucao, Simpa and Poblacion who requested the NCIP to direct the IIPO to submit and disclose financial and management audits derived from applications for issuance of certificate preconditions.

The residents’ letter stemmed from the dispute among IPs of Itogon regarding ISRI’s application for production sharing agreement (APSA).

One group, represented by the IIPO, gave its consent to the ISRI, while another group called the Dalicno Indigenous Peoples Organization is against the APSA.

The IIPO, as the duly-authorized group to represent IPs in the Itogon, signed a memorandum of agreement with the ISRI in September 2023.  

Some of the terms in the MOA include a yearly royalty fee of 1.25 percent based on annual audited financial statement. Sixty-five percent will accrue to the ICCs/IPs of Ampucao, Poblacion, and Virac, and 35 percent to the other barangays of the Itogon AD.

The host ICCs/IPs will also receive a one-time goodwill money of P10M upon signing of the MOA, P2.5M financial assistance to the ICCs/IPs of Ampucao, Poblacion, and Virac, three college scholarships for the host ICCs/IPs for the duration of the MOA, annual subsidy of P300,000 to the IIPO but will stop upon payment of royalty; and P2M assistance for the construction of the IIPO building.  

However, signatories to the letter-request Luciano Manuel, Allan Sabiano, Emilia Fangroy, Ellen Dominguez, Macky Mendoza, and Napoleon Fianza said the MOA cannot be enforced because it lacks the signature of the NCIP chairperson. 

Signatories to the letter said ISRI’s payment of goodwill money can even be considered a bribe because the MOA cannot take shape without the approval of the NCIP chairperson. They added ISRI cannot conduct exploration anywhere in its 250 hectare claim unless a community royalty development plan is crafted and confirmed by IPs in the domain.

No date, no community royalty development has been presented to them, hence ISRI has no basis to release any amount to the IIPO, the signatories said.