Badeo villagers to have final say on 500mw hydro project

KIBUNGAN, Benguet  – The Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) revealed that it will be constrained to call for a special process in the remote village of Badeo where the concerned indigenous peoples will practice their customary laws in deciding whether or not to give their consent for the put up of the 500-megawatt pump storage project of the controversial Coheco Badeo Corporation as a solution to the current impasse in the ambitious project.

NCIP-CAR regional director lawyer Roand P. Calde said that while the validation team that investigated the alleged anomalies in the conduct of the project’s free and prior informed consent (FPIC) has not yet submitted its findings and recommendations, the best approach to the problem is to conduct a special process in Badeo wherein all IPs will be invited to decide whether or not to the give their consent for the project through their customary decision-making process.

While the validation team has not submitted its final report on the investigation and pending the company’s compliance to the realistic economic benefits for the host communities, Calde pointed out that the cease-and-desist order preventing the company from proceeding with whatever activity related to the project still stands, thus, a status quo for the project and the activities related to its implementation.

One of the major issues raised in the earlier cease-and-desist order issued by the NCIP-CAR is the failure of Coheco Badeo Corporation to present to the host communities the economic benefits of the ambitious project during the community consultative assemblies which were cut short in an alleged obvious attempt to railroad the FPIC process in the company’s favour.

“We have to return to Badeo and invite all IPs to exercise their customary laws in the deciding whether or not to endorse the ambitious project to end the various issues raised against the initial conduct of the FPIC process in the area and to erase doubts that our people manipulated the conduct of the process in favour of the company. We will allow the IPs to speak out their sentiments to settle everything,” Calde stressed.

Based on the economic benefits presented by the company to the FPIC team, Coheco Badeo Corporation will provide the host communities a total of P150 million in royalty, taxes, mandatory benefits and additional benefits annually. Of the said amount, P40 million will go to the IPs as royalty wherein IPs of Badeo will be receiving P10 million while those in the other six barangays will be getting P5 million annually.

However, concerned IPs questioned the company how these promises can be fulfilled if it is not the one that will implement the project.

The concerned IPs claimed it is unfair for officials of Coheco Badeo Corporation to make such commitments because they believe that the company is expected to be sold to other investors who are simply awaiting the issuance of the FPIC and allow the seller to gain tremendously from the transaction.

The IPs claimed their fellow IPs should not again be fooled by the alleged false pretences of company officials because they know that they can commit huge amounts of benefits just to get their consent as they will not be the ones to implement the project because the company will be sold to waiting buyers. By HENT

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