Kibungan Indigenous Peoples, as well as political leaders, concerned are put into test as the issue on giving of their consent to the proposed 500-mega watts hydro power pump storage project in Badeo, Kibungan is becoming hot.
The members of the steering committee hired by the proponent company headed by its Chief Executive Officer Apolinario Bagano and Municipal Chairman Benito Siadto, also the former mayor of Kibungan, are defending before concerned IPs the proposed project being the best opportunity for Kibungan to be developed further, especially Barangay Badeo which has no road access yet.
They are informing the IPs to grab the opportunity by giving their consent to the company so that the developments being dreamed by the people in the area, which cannot be done by the government due to limitation of fund, will be addressed and realized.
Some IPs agreed in grabbing the opportunity because it knocks only once while other IPs are questioning the honesty, credibility, as well as the real intention of the proponent company because of their perception that the Korean developer is just making business out of the consent of the indigenous people without a serious plan and financial capacity to implement the project which could possibly bring problems on the agreement made with the IPs upon giving of the consent.
Fears are generated by the situations where new investors buying shares of the company and becoming majority shareholders do not respect Memorandum of Agreements (MOA) entered into by the original proponents, who will now be just minority holders. The Korean developer loses power to resolve the conflict as he is no longer the major stockholder of the company.
Reliable sources of this writer, who are among the IP leaders of Kibungan, bravely exposed that the developer has already sold the previously acquired consent of the people in the COHECO 60 to investors with a positive mark-up of more or less Php1 billion, leaving only 10% share in the company which allows him to sit temporarily sit as the chairman of the board. Mr. Siadto denied the information about the selling of the shares as there is no deed of sale executed between the Korean developer and the investors who allegedly bought the shares but Congressman Ronald Cosalan explained during the interview with media reporters that they only added the number of stock shares which the Korean sold to investors, making it clearer to this writer that the Korean investor, a certain Mr. Kim, is no longer the majority stockholder of COHECO 60 now.
Opposition groups expect what happened in the previous project will also happen in the next proposed project, the Coheco 500, reminding every concerned IP not to easily give their consent immediately to the proponent company, and they vigilantly watch first COHECO 60 if the conditions set in their MOA are really followed before they will finally decide whether or not they will allow the same developer to proceed with his next proposed bigger project.
The Benguet solon shared the same stand with the opposition group when he spoke before the IPs in Barangay Madaymen during the FPIC consultation on June 26. Accordingly, he knew that the company was actually sold to other investors due to the changes in the stockholders that he noticed. He also shared some of the possible great bad effects of such company project to the affected communities and advised the concerned IPs not to allow the Korean businessman to make business out of the consent of the IP. He said it’s better to watch first the 60 megawatt project, which was already approved, before the concerned IPs will decide whether or not they will give their consent also to the proposed bigger project.
A group of concerned IP elders and leaders in Kibungan told this writer that although they really appreciate the promises being uttered by those hired people by the proponent company, which is purposely to be placed in the MOA if ever, the best decision is to say NO to the company for the meantime so that they will first see how the 60 megawatt project be implemented and for them to have enough time to carefully study the positive and negative impacts of such kind of project before they will finally whether or not they will allow such company to proceed with their proposed project/s in the area.
The people representing the company said the Benguet solon’s presence during the FPIC process in Madaymen is a violation to the FPIC policies but some community residents defended what the congressman did as right and just because it is his duty to protect the rights of the people who elected him as their leader, being more knowledgeable than the ordinary IP.
Some leader of the Benguet Alliance of Responsible Leaders Advocating Development (BARLAD), formerly UNLAD Benguet Movement, told this writer that this particular situation is the best time to determine who are the IPs and political leaders to be trusted because of their firm and right decision and who can be easily deceived by the power of m.o.n.e.y. (momentarily owned not eternally yours). By TYSON L. BACONA, founding President of the Kayapa and Tacadang Responsible Youth Organization (KATARYO)