BAUKO, Mountain Province – The Leonardo Pacsi command of the New Peoples Army (NPA) based in the province and the management of the Hydroelectric Development Corporation (Hedcor) Sabangan, Inc. exchanged serious allegations against each other in relation to the bombing of the company’s 14-megawatt tapping point in barangay Otucan Norte, here Tuesday night that resulted to the damage of around 90 percent of the facility that caused prolonged power outages not only in the province but also in nearby areas.
The exchange of strongly worded statements from both camps came after concerned provincial and municipal officials condemned the bombing incident that tainted the province’s overall peace and order situation and had brought fear among the residents on the resurgence of armed conflicts between the government forces and the rebels that will compromise the economic gains that the province was able to achieve over the past several years.
Magno Udyaw, NPA Leonardo Pacsi command spokesperson, claimed Hedcor allegedly deceitfully robbed the people of Sabangan of their land and water rights in its 14-megawatt project because while it collects P4.56 per kilowatthour for generation charge, it downgrades the locals by giving a mendicant royalty of P0.005 per kilowatthour not even following the already measly P0.1 perkilowatthour set by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and pays a monthly rental of only P1.50 per square meter of land it occupies, P2.00 per square meter for productive rice and vegetable areas with 5 percent increase every five years, and P2.00 per square meter for access road for five years.
Further, Udyaw claimed even such areas used for traditional rituals and considered sacred were allegedly desecrated and provides scholarship to a few selected students and skills trainings to some community folks to work for them afterwards and gives out donations and community projects in exchange for tax credits.
The statement added while Hedcor earns millions of pesos from local water resources, the people bear the brunt of paying increasing power generation rates and other charges in their monthly electric bills and that the same shows how little the capitalists and the bureaucrats give value to centuries of preservation and nurturing that the villagers have given to their ancestral land and domain in the name of profit.
The NPA claimed Hedcor committed several violations of its memorandum of agreement with the host communities and selected elders of barangays Napua and Namatek, particularly the alleged excessive cutting of trees, very limited hiring of local workers, no hiring of local contractors and free electric bills.
On the other hand, HEDCOR denounced the bombing of the control room of its 14-megawatt hydro power plant by still unidentified armed men that resulted to the total damage of some 90 percent of the units of equipment in its tapping point.
HEDCOR Sabangan management stated nobody was hurt during the incident which happened at around11 pm Tuesday.
We denounce this attack that resulted to in the curtailment of power supply and the hampering the development in the province. We continue to closely coordinate with the local governments of Bauko, Sabangan and Mountain Province on our next steps to recover from this unfortunate incident,” the HEDCOR statement stressed.
HEDCOR assured its continuous cooperation to Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, who are investigating the incident and have enhanced security on site.
Amidst the huge damage inflicted by the bombing incident to the units of equipment in the company’s tapping point, HEDCOR stated the company has activated its Business Continuity Plan to restore the Sabangan Hydro operation within the soonest possible time.
The company stated the Sabangan power plant, more than a renewable energy facility of Aboitiz Power and Hedcor, is a community endeavour considering that the plant contributes to the welfare of its host community through royalty shares and energy regulation (ER 1-94) shares out of the plant operations.
“We employ people from our host community, we pay local and national taxes, and our CSR activities try to uplift the lives of our neighbors,” HEDCOR added in its statement released to members of the media today.
Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan, Jr. also condemned the bombing incident which he described as unfornate considering that the people of the province are peace-loving people and they do not adhere to barbaric activities just to have their grievances be given due attention.
Lacwasan ordered the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the military to make sure that vital installations in the different parts of the province will be provided with sufficient security personnel to prevent the repeat of the incident that will affect the image of the province as peaceful and orderly.
“We do not tolerate such kind of punitive actions to seek redress for grievances. It is important to talk things over instead of sowing fear among our people,” Lacwasan stressed.
Mayor Braham Akilit expressed disappointment on the way the NPAs ruined the peace and order situation of the municipality which the local officials and the people had been preserving over the past several years of continuous dialogue.
“Whoever performed the barbaric act should apologize to our people for compromising our efforts to sustain lasting peace in Bauko. It is unfortunate that Bauko was used by the rebels to advance their own interests which now opens the opportunity for the military to put up a detachment in the town instead of having abandoned the plan as they were convinced in our efforts to make Bauko peaceful through the years,”Akilit stressed.
He admitted that Bauko is also demanding for a share from the royalty being paid by Hedcor to the government because part of its facilities and the headwaters of the river system providing water for the hydro plant is located in the municipality but they are doing the appeal through peaceful means and through roundtable discussions unlike the NPAs who try to take the law in their hands.
Mayor Akilit warned the NPAs to abide with their earlier commitment to maintain peace in the province and not to wait for the people to be the ones to be fed up with their illegal activities that will surely compromise their stay in the different parts of the province in the future.