KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Concerned indigenous peoples (IPs) in barangay Badeo petitioned the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) to cease and desist from proceeding with the purported negotiations between IPs and the management of the Coheco Badeo Corporation, proponent of the 500-megawatt pump storage project, considering their planned replacement of their elders who will represent them in the said process.
Sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from their ranks and the company, claimed that Ramon Sed-ek, president of the Badeo Indigenous Peoples Association (BIPA), already informed the NCIP-CAR of their desire to replace their elders who will represent them in the pre-negotiation activities but it seems the request fell on deaf ears as if the NCIP-CAR officials already control the situation which is in violation of the primary intention of the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
“What we understand about the primary purpose of the IPRA is for the promotion of the primacy of customary laws in settling conflicts that happen in their ancestral domain. Now that we want our elders who will represent us in the negotiations to be replaced, NCIP-CAR officials refuse to heed our plight for us to do so when it is our primordial right to do so,” the source stressed.
The concerned IPs claimed that they lost trust and confidence to the members of their council of elders who were allegedly manipulated by some members of the NCIP free and prior informed consent (FPIC) team that resulted in the questionable decision of the IPs to favour the project amidst the vehement opposition of most of the IPs living in the different sections of the barangay.
According to them, it is incumbent upon the NCIP-CAR to respect their decision to replace the members of their council of elders but they are wondering why NCIP-CAR officials insist in proceeding with the negotiations for the memorandum of agreement of the project when there are various petitions pending with the said office to suspend the pre-negotiation activities until the resolution of the issues raised against the processes that resulted to the issuance of the free and prior informed consent of the IPs.
It can be recalled that on March 21, 2018, the NCIP-CAR proceeded with the pre-negotiation activities for the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the IPs and the company even with pending petitions from the concerned IPs for the suspension of the said activity considering that the personnel did not receive any instruction from their higher authorities for them to suspend the said activity.
The IPs warned the NCIP-CAR officials not to await the situation from going out of control before making concrete actions on their petitions against the project because they will continue fighting for their rights that were trampled upon over their ancestral domain considering that they do not want the present and future generations to suffer the consequences of whatever wrong decisions that will be made in the current project where the state of the environment and the welfare of the IPs are at stake.