BAKUN, Benguet – Municipal officials, representatives of the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) and members of the Bakun Indigenous Tribes Organization (BITO) defied an advisory issued by the energy department by going to the HEDCOR’s Lower Labay, Lon-oy and FLS hydro power plant facilities to implement a forced shutdown upon instructions that where handed down by the NCIP regional office on a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) it issued over a week ago.
The instruction to implement the CDO was made without any reference to the directive from the energy department dated June 25, 2021 to HEDCOR to continue operating the power plants in consideration of the national interest at this time that there is an impending power shortage.
Based on the contention of a lawyer who accompanied the group to implement the shutdown, a court order and not a letter from the energy department can supersede the already issued CDO.
Further, the group insisted that the letter from the energy department was not an instruction but rather a simple reminder.
However, the standing status quo ante order issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Buguias which was a result of the mutual commitment between HEDCOR and the Bakun municipal government represented by lawyer Sonny Sacla to maintain the uninterrupted operations of the plants was also not recognized by the group.
‘Unless DOE expressly states in writing and confirms that their letter sent on June 25, 2021 addressed to HEDCOR to continue operations is simply a reminder, we will treat DOE’s letter as an order for HEDCOR to keep operating our plants in Bakun. However, we are forced to stop operations, with the threat posed by the situation. As much as we want to continue delivering power to the Luzon grid, we do not want to compromise the safety of the community and our personnel, HEDCOR vice president for operations and maintenance Leo Lungay stressed.
Earlier, DOE underscored its mandated pursuant to the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9136 or the electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 to ensure the quality, reliability, and affordability of the supply of electric power, especially during the prevailing health pandemic.
Moreover, DOE highlighted the importance of ensuring integrity of the power system pursuant to EPIRA and as mandated by the aforementioned circulars and issuances. It also emphasized to continue operating the Bakun hydro power plants in compliance to existing laws, Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) rules, and the Philippine Grid Code.
For her part, HEDCOR vice president for corporate services Noreen Vicencio pointed out that the company has earnestly engaged and constantly reached out to the community in good faith for a reasonable dialogue and prior to the issuance of the CDO, HEDCOR was hopeful with the confirmed ‘tongtongan’ that the company was supposed to have with the indigenous peoples (IP) leaders last June 15, 2021.
But with the last minute cancellation advise by the municipal government and followed by the BITO, she claimed that the company is saddened that the situation has come to the present status.
Vicencio asserted that the company hears the community’s desire for a dialogue and the demand for a shutdown before any discussion will commence, but the company has also a mandate from DOE to continue operations in the light of the ongoing power crisis in Luzon.
HEDCOR reiterated its long-standing request to engage in a reasonable dialogue with the community, while allowing the plants to continue running, so that the company can serve the critical needs of the Luzon grid and at the same time, sustain the benefits of the Bakun Indigenous peoples. By HENT