SANTOL, La Union – Villagers from the remote village of Sapdaan are now up in arms against the construction of a 500-megawatt pump storage hydro project by the controversial Coheco Badeo Corporation in the upland barangay of Badeo, Kibungan, Benguet because of its alleged serious negative impact on the primary source of water for their agricultural farms and their possible displacement from their ancestral domain.
Concerned indigenous peoples (IP) leaders from the said village, who requested anonymity for security reasons, commended the IPs of Badeo for their consistent stand against the ambitious project and clarifying issues on the hydro project that poses a serious threat to all the domains of Kapangan, Kibungan and parts of in La union.
The Sapdaan IPs were surprised to know that their domain will also be affected by the project as the hydro plant’s lower dam and a big portion of its by-pass tunnel will be located within their areas of jurisdiction, particularly underneath their rice farms that will result to the eventual depletion of the water supply not only for their farms but also for various uses by the people in the village.
“We cannot understand why the Coheco Badeo Corporation seems to be evasive in the conduct of the required free and prior informed consent (FPIC) for its pump storage project when our place that is located downstream of Badeo is considered an affected area and under the free and prior informed consent rules and regulations, we should be consulted and we must first issue our consent before the implementation of any development works by the proponent,” the source stressed.
The sources added the lower dam and the by-pass tunnel has the capacity to divert the flow of water underneath the ricefields in a huge portion of the barangay that could result to scarcity of water supply for the people, thus, they are not in agreement with such kind of agreement and that they will surely go against the this project in their ancestral domain.
According to them, they will not allow the machinations and maneuverings done by company officials in cahoots with some officials of concerned government agencies because they are already aware of what happened in Badeo where the IPs there opposed the project but due to the interference of some NCIP staff, the result of the FPIC process was manipulated.
The IPs claimed that the excuses of the proponents in not being transparent about their project will not surely work when they conduct the FPIC process in their area because they will insist on the rights of the IPs that have to be upheld and respected and not subject to negotiations.
The Sapdaan IPs sympathize with the IPs of Kibungan in the way the FPIC process was allegedly railroaded by the proponents to suit the company’s interests as well as their benefactors but they assured that what happened in Kibungan will not happen in their place because they believe that the information they were able to gather on the anomalies committed in the Kibungan process will be sufficient to guide them in being vigilant and deciding what will be the best for their village. By HENT