SANTOL, La Union – Concerned local officials and indigenous peoples (IP) leaders challenged the management of the Coheco Badeo Corporation, proponent of the 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project in Barangay Badeo, Kibungan to take the risk of first constructing the promised access road from Ilocos Sur passing through the locality as a test of the company’s sincerity and credibility prior to securing the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the affected IPs.
Sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, revealed that there is a snowballing consensus among local officials and IP leaders that no consent will be issued by the IPs until Coheco Badeo Corporation will build the access road which company officials keep boasting and promising that it will be done once the ambitious project will push through.
“We are aware that the purported Korean investor, Larry Hwon Kim, sold his previous company after securing the consent of the IPs of Kibungan and Kapangan for its 60-megawatt project in Kapangan. We are pretty sure that after he will be able to secure the consent of the IPs of Kibungan for its proposed 500-megawatt project, he will again sell the company to his waiting investors, thus, he is actually an enterprising businessman and not a true investor who wants to rake in billions of pesos in instant income at the expense of the IPs,” the source stressed.
The source pointed out the Korean investor and his Filipino counterparts had been enticing Kibungan IPs to endorse its 500-megawatt pump storage project with promises to build an access road from Ilocos Sur to its project site, among others, which is being viewed as a promise to be shouldered by new owners of the company who will be burdened after they have gotten their desired developer’s fee.
According to him, the current officials of the company have been making sugar-coated promises to convince IPs to endorse the project knowing they will not be hard up in the future because they will not be the ones to eventually implement the project, considering the expected sale of the company to the new owners and the IPs could not blame future owners if the promised projects will not be implemented because it will be no longer practical for the company.
The IP leaders also emphasized the test of commitment of the company is for it to already start constructing the access road that it had been boasting and promising during previous consultations to really show that it is sincere in complying with its commitments without leaving the IPs behind once its current owners will dilute their share and allow new investors to take over the implementation of the project.
The concerned officials claimed that the IPs will decide to give their consent once the company will be able to build the road from Ilocos Sur to Badeo, Kibungan which is part of the risk that it should take so that what had been done in the past, particularly the sale of the company to new investors who were not aware of previous commitments, could be avoided and to prevent new company owners from being compromised and the rights of the IPs over their ancestral domain from being abused.