KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Concerned indigenous peoples (IP) leaders in the remote village of Badeo petitioned the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) en banc to come out with a decisive ruling on the various issues that they have raised against the conduct of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process by the Coheco Badeo Corporation for its proposed 500-megawatt pump storage hydro power plant in the area.
In a petition submitted to the NCIP en banc recently, the concerned IP leader prayed to the Commission to make a ruling on whether or not the purported decision to combine the first and second community consultative assemblies (CCAs) in a single day as reportedly agreed upon by the pre-selected IP elders is pursuant to the FPIC guidelines promulgated by the en banc in 2012.
Further, the lone petitioner also requested the Commission to decide on whether or not there is a need for the company to again conduct another FPIC to the affected IPs in the ancestral domain considering that the NCIP FPIC team and the company failed to include the water rights application in the process that it was done for the ambitious hydro project.
The petitioner also inquired from the Commission whether or not the company violated the prescribed FPIC guidelines when some of its officials allegedly openly campaigned not only in the broadcast media but also in the different barangays during the so-called freedom period.
The petitioner prayed that once the Commission will find merit to their complaint, it will order the company and the FPIC team to repeat the FPIC process to include the FPIC for the company’s water rights application and to impose the necessary sanctions against the NCIP-CAR FPIC team members for their alleged biases in favour of the proponent during the previous FPIC process.
It can be recalled that the concerned IP leaders who attended the hearing called for by the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) on the water rights application of the Coheco Badeo Corporation over portions of the Amburayan river were able to uncover that the NWRB endorsed the said application to the NCIP-Car for the conduct of the FPIC process for the said purpose but the same was never included in the conduct of the CCAs for the project.
Earlier, the NCIP-CAR ordered the relief of lawyer Ceferino Lumiked as its FPIC team leader for the pump storage project of Coheco Badeo Corporation and ordered the conduct of a special CCA in barangay Badeo which will be scheduled after it will be able to appoint a competent FPIC team leader following numerous complaints raised by the concerned IPs regarding the alleged bias shown by the former team leader in most of the proceedings during the CCAs organized for the purpose.
According to the petitioner, all is not still lost for those against the ambitious project because there are still numerous remedies that could be done to ventilate their legitimate opposition, especially that the company failed to present to the people concrete plans for the project since what was presented were merely conceptual plans.
The concerned IP called on their fellow IPs to bi vigilant on the actions of company officials who are trying their best to lobby for the eventual grant of their consent for the ambitious project.