KABAYAN, Benguet – Indigenous peoples (IPs) in this town petitioned the energy department to cancel the hydro power service contracts it issued to the Aboitiz-owned Hydroelectric Development Corporation (HEDCOR) Benguet Inc. for the company’s various hydroelectric power plants situated within the ancestral domain of the Ibaloi, Kalanguya and Kankana-ey indigenous cultural communities as these were granted without the required free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the affected IPs who are the owners of the domain.
In separate resolutions submitted to the energy department, the Onjon ni Kasikuran Shi Kabayan (ONKASKA) stated that based on the consensus which is the final activity of the FPIC process conducted for the construction of the Kabayan 1, former Nalatang A hydroelectric power plant, by the FPIC team of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) on November 18, 2016 at the Social Hall, Kabayan Central Scholl, those in favor of giving consent to the project were outnumbered or outvoted by those opted not to give consent with 62 votes against the project and 58 votes for the same proposed project.
Aside from the 20-megawatt Kabayan 1 project, the IPs are also seeking cancellation of the service contracts No. 2009-10-034 dated October 23, 2009 granted to the Philippine National Oil Company (PNCO) Renewables Corporation for Nalatang B, amended by No. 2009-10-034-A-1 Dated June 13, 2016 with HEDCOR Cordillera Inc. as re-developer for Kabayan 2 hydroelectric power plant: hydro power service contract No. 2014-11-528 dated November 17, 2014 granted to HEDCOR Benguet, Inc. for 14.3-megawatts Kabayan 3 hydroelectric power plant, amended on June 2, 2016 with increased capacity to 27-megawatts; hydro power service contract No. 2014-08-510 granted to United Hydro Power Builders for 1.00 megawatt Eddet Adaoay 1 hydroelectric power plant and hydropower service contract No. 2014-08-511 granted to United Hydro Power Builders for 1.80 megawatt Eddet Adaoay 2 hydroelectric power plant.
The group asserted the result of the consensus is the final decision of the Ibaloi, Kalanguya and Kankana-ey of Kabayan on the proposed project.
Under the issued resolution of non-consent, the IPs of Kabayan declared their exercise of priority rights to develop their water resources in their ancestral domain, the Agno river and all its tributaries, rivers in Tawangan and Lusod, and all hydroelectric power plant projects in the town are their proposed projects and with interested developers or investors can only be partners.
The IPs admitted that they already offered their partnership to the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) and that they already began working and cooperating with the cooperative for their hydroelectric power plant projects, BENECO being the town’s power distributor.
“WE are aware of the objection of the residents of Mangkew, Pacso, Kabayan to the tunneling which HEDCOR Benguet, INC. will do as part of their proposed hydroelectric power plant project and we sympathize and support their objection,” the non-consent resolution stated.
As owners of the domain and all their resources within, the IPs pointed out that they are obliged to select the most beneficial and most advantageous arrangement whenever developers or investors enter their domain and these benefits and advantages are lacking in HEDCOR Benguet, Inc. power plants that they investigated.
Earlier, the IPs of Lusod requested the conduct by BENECO of a feasibility study on their water resources in their rivers for development as hydroelectric power generation and possible joint venture or partnership in the electrification of their community is on-going and with its completion, they will be member-consumers of the cooperative and they will support the cooperative by providing an opportunity for it to construct its hydroelectric power generation plant to ensure reliable, secure and cheaper power supply.
As per deep consideration, the IPs claimed that construction of tunnels would impact on their environment and conveyance through the tunnels will pose danger to the community because Kabayan is an alleged earthquake-prone area.
“We fear that the source of water like springs and rivers will dry up because of the construction of tunnels. We allowed HEDCOR Benguet, Inc. to present their mini-hydroelectric power projects during their IEC to provide opportunity to other investors to present their proposals and avoid monopoly of hydroelectric generation,” the resolution added.
With the rejection of the proposed project, the IPs stipulated that the grantee of the said hydropower service contract cannot proceed with the construction of the plant within the portions of the ancestral domain of the Ibaoli, Kalanguya and Kankanaey ICCs, thus, the need for the energy department to already cancel the same.