BAGUIO CITY – The Board of Directors of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) approved a resolution requesting the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) to request the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to immediately issue a moratorium on the issuance of permits for hydroelectric plants projects and water rights in the different parts of the region without prior knowledge and consent of the region’s policy-making body and the host communities, particularly the barangays, municipalities and provinces.
Resolution No. 2017-121 stated the proliferation of water rights and hydroelectric plant development by and for giant and even foreign-led companies continues to be an irritant between the proponents, concerned government agencies and residents of host communities who are often the last to know that their water resources have become t6he subject of water rights of outsiders who are out to develop them into hydroelectric facilities and wreck in millions of pesos at the expense of the IPs.
Further, the BENECO board added the proliferation of water rights and hydroelectric power development permits in the region has led to the depletion of resources that the region, on its own, can eventually tap and develop for its own growth and development.
The resolution stipulated ‘curiously, the informed prior rights, consultations with the host communities are done only after the permit to develop and the water rights have been issued in a kart before the horse scenario.”
Earlier, the NWRB has been issuing water rights over portions of rivers in the Cordillera without prior knowledge and consent of the region and the communities hosting the said water resources and in the same token, the DOE has been issuing permits for the construction of hydroelectric dams in the different parts of the region using water rights without prior knowledge and consent of the region and the communities hosting the rich water resources.
“The debilitating impact of these would be deeply felt should the region succeed in its quest for autonomy or self-rule as there would there be no more water resources it can develop to spur its own progress, as these have been already assigned to private companies.,” the BENECO resolution stated.
According to the BENECO resolution, the idea and viability for the region to own hydroelectric plants for its own development through grant support has already been shown in Ifugao province where the G-7 countries commissioned Japan as a member in developing the Ambangal minihydroelectric plant in Kiangan town and then turning this over to the municipal government, with the condition that part of the income generation from its operation shall be used for the restoration and protection of the rice terraces in Kiangan, Mayoyao, Banaue and Hungduan towns where the most extensive terraces are found. Likewise, the Japan International Cooperating Agency (JICA) has financed and is now constructing a bigger hydroelectric dam in Ifugao which shall be turned over to the province once completed.
The resolution added the potential of the region in obtaining support through fund grants to develop hydroelectric plants would dramatically improve should the Cordillera become an autonomous region with hydro development becoming a crucial driver in the region’s development and providing substance to autonomy. By HENT