KIBUGAN, Benguet – The municipal council will investigate the alleged free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process being undertaken by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for the proposed 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project of Coheco Badeo Corporation in barangay Badeo to ascertain the veracity of the complaints from concerned indigenous peoples (IPs) on the alleged manipulations and maneuverings being done to get the consent of the IPs for the ambitious project.
The local legislative body created a committee chaired by Councilor Onoda Aplat and co-chaired by Councilor Susan Atayoc to look into the truthfulness of the complaints from the IPs on the alleged maneuvering done by NCIP staff and the proponent to make it appear that IPs are in favour of the project contrary to the true sentiment of the concerned IPs who are actually against the put up of the pump storage facility.
Sources from the local government revealed that local officials are concerned after receiving various verbal and written complaints from affected IPs on the alleged tinkering of the FPIC process by NCIP officials that led to the declaration of the FPIC team leader lawyer Severino Lumiked as persona non grata in some villages in Badeo, particularly, Balbalnag, Tableo, Mocgao and Lebeng.
While the proposed investigation will surely take some time, the concerned IPs of Badeo expressed their gratitude to the members of the municipal council for considering the validity of their complaints as the future of the IPs is at stake once the environmentally critical project will be given their consent which is doubtful because of the overwhelming opposition of the IPs to the project.
The concerned Badeo IPs questioned the maneuvering of Lumiked of their right to decide the fate of the project which was also upheld by their punong barangay, Bestre Domez, but the members of the NCIP FPIC team, who are allegedly in cahoots with Coheco Badeo Corporation officials allegedly put on record that it was the consensus of the pre-selected elders to favour the project which was actually against the expressed will of the villagers.
On the other hand, the concerned IPs also belied the claim of those in favour of the project that they did not actually understand the contents of the resolution and the manifesto, citing that the manifesto was actually written in the local dialect for them to understand and that they freely and voluntarily affixed their signature on the said comment to show their support for the declaration of Lumiked as persona non grata in the four villages of Badeo for not respecting their customary decision-making process on the project.
Further, the IP leaders claimed land owners in Badeo are learned and it is insulting for their detractors to insinuate that they did not understand the contents of the document that they signed, saying that it is their critics that have actually allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by a company that is not actually financially capable to pursue the project but is just waiting for their consent so it can sell this and gain enormously from the transaction.