KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Concerned indigenous peoples (IP) leaders and barangay officials are now again up in arms against the embattled management of the Coheco Badeo Corporation (CBC) for allegedly filing an overlapping application on the development and use of forested areas in Badeo to support its proposed 500megawatt pump storage hydro project.
Sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, revealed that CBC’s application for forest land use in the area reportedly overlaps the 63-hectare area already covered by the forest land agreement (FLAG) granted by the environment department to the Cordillera Hydroelectric Power Corporation (COHECO).
“We learned that the forest land use application of CBC overlaps most of the portions of the FLAG granted to another company that is why we are now doing our best to inform and educate our constituents that the pump storage project is obviously dubious,” the sources stressed.
Under existing rules and regulations, the FLAG issued to a company allows the same to use and develop the area covered by the exclusive agreement.
The sources casted doubt on the real intention of CBC to file an application for forest use that overlaps an already granted exclusive agreement to a company with a similar line of business, thus, it is obvious that the CBC is allegedly trying to disturb the earlier 60-megawatt project that was already endorsed by the IPs of Kibungan and Kapangan.
The sources pointed out it is not worthy for CBC to argue that its desired forest use application will be approved despite the already granted exclusive agreement to COHECO stating that COHECO will use the surface and CBC will use the underground.
Initial findings conducted by the environment department showed that CBC’s application overlaps the already granted exclusive forest land agreement to COHECO and based on existing rules the former should be outrightly rejected by the concerned government agency.
IPs living in the host and neghboring communities of Badeo now doubt the sincerity of the CBC to fulfil its commitments with the IP organization when the company was not able to present a legitimate financial package beneficial to the owners of the ancestral domain where its project will be constructed.
While CBC was able to initially gain the support of the IPs for the project, the sources revealed there are now numerous IP leaders who want to retract their support to the company after learning that it will not be the CBC that will implement the project but it will be the future investors who will work on the ambitious project, thus, there is no clear guarantee that their previous commitment to the IPs during the free and prior informed consent process will be fulfilled.
According to them, it will be possible that the new owners of CBC will deny the juicy offers made by the company to the IPs because what matters will be the return of investment that will be derived from the eventual operation of the plant.
The sources also questioned the BCB for pursuing initial groundworks in their place when it was not yet issued the appropriate permits by the concerned government agencies and local governments for them to enter their place and do whatever they want to do.