KIBUNGAN, Benguet– Indigenous peoples in this remote village are now up in arms against the alleged illegal drilling activities being conducted by a newly registered local power corporation without the benefit of securing their free and prior informed consent (FPIC) and pertinent permits from the local government and concerned government agencies.
Concerned local residents questioned the arrival of various units of drilling equipment of a Baguio-based exploration company which was commissioned by the so-called COHECO Badeo, a newly registered local power corporation, which is planning to put up a 500-megawatt hydro power plant in the said village when there had been no actual consultations with the affected indigenous peoples.
“We were surprised to witness the arrival of several units of drilling equipment in our place when we were never consulted nor informed about such drilling operations related to a hydro plant project without our consent,” the source, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal among land owners who were in cahoots with some officials of the COHECO Badeo, stressed.
COHECO Badeo has a pending application for the issuance of a pre-development service contract with the energy department which will be the basis of the conduct of FPIC by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to ascertain whether the indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities favour the put up of the hydro plant in their ancestral domain.
The source expressed fear of massive destruction of the environment once the illegal drilling operations will push through considering that the said activity is being done without the benefit of the conduct of FPIC, the issuance of the required environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the environment and natural resources department and the required pre-development service contract to be issued by the energy department.
Under existing rules and regulations, proponents of hydro power plants must first secure a pre-development service contract with the energy department which will be the basis for the NCIP to conduct the mandatory FPIC and based on the outcome of the process, the subsequent issuance of the ECC and other pertinent permits by the local government concerned and other government regulating agencies for the realization of the project.
According to the source, COHECO Badeo commissioned a Baguio-based exploration company to conduct the alleged illegal drilling operations in their village without the benefit of securing the proper permits that casts doubts on the sincerity of the local power corporation to comply with existing rules and regulations in the implementation of environmentally critical projects in their place.
Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative Albert Mayamnes already sent queries to the Cordillera hydro Power Corporation on whether or not the company is related to their operations in Kapangan and Kibungan towns and to the NCIP on whether or not the company’s drilling operation is legitimate without the benefit of the FPIC from the affected indigenous peoples in the said area.