December 4, 2022

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera is currently reviewing the memorandum of agreement signed by indigenous peoples of Kabugao, Apayao and the proponent of a 150-megawatt hydroelectric power plant project in the municipality.

But concerned indigenous peoples of Kabugao are not honoring the signed MOA for the proposed Gened-1 hydroelectric power plant by Pan Pacific Renewable Power Philippines Corporation (PPRPPC).

In a letter-complaint earlier sent to the NCIP-CAR, community leaders and representatives have asked for the nullification of the MOA between the IPs and PPRPPC because of “blatant violations of the provisions of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act and deceitful consensus building.”

They also accused that the proponents and their team have hauled out elders and leaders to barangay EKB on April 20, telling them that a general assembly with a lawmaker will be held.

The opposition also claimed the MOA contains forged signatures when the document was leaked to the public on May 20, as family members of some of the signatories denied the legitimacy of the signatures.

Under the MOA, the rent for productive agricultural land, regardless of the crops, is P70,000 per hectare per year.

The rent for idle agricultural land is P7,000 per hectare per year during the 25-year period, which is renewable for another  25 years while rates are subject to an escalation rate of three percent per annum.

Concerned families also rejected the list of affected households, saying names of the owners are misspelled, incorrect, and incomplete.

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

In a resolution passed last month, 168 IP leaders and elders reiterated their rejection of the proposed hydropower plant.

Meanwhile, Kabugao Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative John Amid, in a press statement, clarified that social acceptability and free, prior informed consent was granted to the proponent following the right process, before the concerned IPs of affected barangays, which represent the majority of the communities, signed the MOA with the proponent.

He said only one percent of the 93,512 hectares will be affected, as the proposed renewable hydropower project which includes a dam, powerhouse, diversion tunnel, switchyard, substation and transmission lines will be built in Lt. Balag in Pudtol .

Amid has encouraged the Kabugao IPs to support the project not only because it will produce clean energy and power the municipality, but also will uplift the lives of the Isnag host communities by providing jobs and other sustainable livelihood, enterprise development, health care and environmental conservation.

Contrary to claims, Amid said the MOA includes royalty share from the power plant’s actual generation; compensation for affected houses and affected farmers; yearly educational and medical subsidy for 25 years of P2 million per year; and livelihood and skills training; and other opportunities for them. 

PPRPPC will give priority to the host community in the employment of at least 500 people for the construction of the powerplant alone.

Apart from the compensation benefits as provided in the MOA, the project proponent is required to set aside one percent of its gross income  as government share which will be shared by the national and provincial, municipal and barangays local governments.    

Under the law, the host communities and affected barangays will be entitled to one centavo for every kilowatt-hour a year.   

Amid said they respect the stand of the anti-hydro plant groups since it is their right, but they leave to the authorities and concerned agencies how to address their sentiments. – Ofelia C. Empian